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Children’s privacy focus of 2015 global Privacy Sweep

GATINEAU, Quebec, May 11, 2015 — The proliferation of websites and mobile applications targeted at, or popular among, children is raising privacy concerns that have prompted the Global Privacy Enforcement Network to focus its 2015 international Privacy Sweep on this vulnerable group.

This year’s Sweep will take place from May 11th to 15th, 2015 in 20 countries and will involve 29 data protection authorities, including the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

“We know from previous privacy sweeps that mobile apps and websites often collect an immense amount of personal information,” Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien says.

“Children are more connected than ever before and these platforms must bear that in mind when seeking potentially sensitive data such as name, location or email address. This is about protecting children. I can’t think of anything more important than that.”

As part of this year’s initiative, “sweepers “ — generally volunteers from participating data protection authorities — will assess whether the apps and websites examined collect personal information from children and if so, whether protective controls exist to limit that collection.

They will also assess whether the websites and apps seek parental involvement, whether they allow users to be redirected off the site, whether they make it easy to delete personal information and whether privacy communications are tailored to the age group at which they are directed through approaches such as simple language, large print, audio and animation.

The international Sweep aims to increase public and business awareness of privacy rights and responsibilities, encourage compliance with privacy legislation, identify concerns that may be addressed through targeted education or enforcement and enhance cooperation among privacy enforcement authorities.

Concerns identified during the Sweep will result in follow-up work such as outreach to organizations and/or enforcement action. Past experience has shown that education and outreach can go a long way towards effecting change without the need for costly and time-consuming formal investigations.

For instance, last year’s Mobile App Privacy Sweep is still yielding positive results for consumers, with developers agreeing to make changes to some 136 apps. For details, please see a blog posted today.

“We were very pleased to see so many developers responding positively to our outreach efforts and improving their privacy practices. We see this as a testament to the success of our annual privacy sweep initiative,” says Commissioner Therrien.

This year’s Sweep is the latest in a series of initiatives focused on the important issue of children’s privacy. In March, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada issued a 10 tips guide for organizations that collect information from young people in the wake of an investigation of a website aimed at children.

The Global Privacy Enforcement Network connects privacy enforcement authorities to promote and support co-operation in cross-border enforcement of laws protecting privacy.

The results of this year’s Sweep will be compiled and made public in the fall.

About the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada is mandated by Parliament to act as an ombudsman and guardian of privacy in Canada. The Commissioner enforces two 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), Canada’s federal private sector privacy law.

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For more information, please contact:

Tobi Cohen, 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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