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News Release

Privacy enforcement authorities launch first-ever international Internet Privacy Sweep

Ottawa, May 6, 2013 — A group of 19 privacy enforcement authorities from around the globe – including the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada – are participating in the first annual international Internet Privacy Sweep.

The Sweep is an initiative of the Global Privacy Enforcement Network, which connects privacy enforcement authorities to promote and support cooperation in cross-border enforcement of laws protecting privacy.

“Privacy issues have become global and they require a global response,” says Privacy Commissioner of Canada Jennifer Stoddart.  “It is critical that privacy enforcement authorities work together to help protect the privacy rights of people around the world.”

The first Internet Privacy Sweep, which runs from May 6-12, 2013, includes authorities from:  Australia, Canada, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Macao, Macedonia, New Zealand, Norway, United Kingdom and the United States.  In Canada, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia is also taking part.

During the week, participating authorities will dedicate individuals within their organization to search the Internet in a coordinated effort to assess privacy issues related to a common theme.

The theme selected for the first Sweep is Privacy Practice Transparency. 

“Transparency is one of the privacy basics; organizations need to be open and clear with people about how they collect, use and disclose personal information,” says Commissioner Stoddart, whose Office is acting as international Sweep coordinator for this inaugural year.

“Improving transparency is especially important in the online world, where researchers have estimated it can take people up to 250 hours to read all of the privacy policies they encounter in a year. Long, legalistic privacy policies can be almost impossible to understand and navigate, therefore making it extremely difficult for individuals to make meaningful and informed decisions about protecting their privacy.”

Some of the issues that Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada will consider when it examines a few hundred websites as part of the Internet Privacy Sweep include:

  • Does the site have a privacy policy?
  • How difficult is it to find information about the site’s privacy practices?
  • Is contact information for addressing privacy questions and concerns readily available?
  • How readable is the information about privacy practices?

The goals of the initiative include: increasing public and business awareness of privacy rights and responsibilities; encouraging compliance with privacy legislation; identifying concerns which may result in follow up actions such as targeted education and/or enforcement; and enhancing cooperation amongst privacy enforcement authorities.

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada is mandated by Parliament to act as an ombudsman and guardian of privacy in Canada. The Commissioner enforces two federal laws for the protection of personal information: the Privacy Act, which applies to the federal public sector; and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which applies to commercial activities in the Atlantic provinces, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Territories. Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia each has its own law covering the private sector. Even in these provinces, PIPEDA continues to apply to the federally regulated private sector and to personal information in interprovincial and international transactions.

See also:  Global Privacy Enforcement Network Internet Privacy Sweep - Questions and Answers.

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For more information, please contact:

Valerie Lawton
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

NOTE: Journalists are asked to please send requests for interviews or further information via e-mail.

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