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Canada examines health devices during 2016 “Internet of Things” global privacy sweep

GATINEAU, Que., April 11, 2016 — The explosion of Internet-connected everyday objects and privacy concerns surrounding our increasingly wired world have prompted the Global Privacy Enforcement Network to focus on the Internet of Things during the 2016 global privacy Sweep.

This year’s Sweep will take place from April 11th to 15th, 2016 and will involve a number of data protection authorities from around the world, including the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC), which will focus its efforts on health devices.

“Connected devices, such as fitness trackers, smart scales, sleep monitors and other health related products, are capable of capturing some of our most intimate data,” Commissioner Daniel Therrien says.

“Given the sensitivity of the information, it is imperative that the companies behind such devices are transparent about what they collect, how the information will be used and with whom the data will be shared. I’m pleased the Sweep will focus on this important area under the Internet of Things banner.”

As part of this year’s initiative, authorities will focus on accountability. Sweep participants will look at the privacy communications and practices related to Internet connected devices, but each has the flexibility to choose a different category of products and a preferred approach. While some authorities have opted to sweep wearables, health-related devices or appliances, others will be looking at very specific things like smart meters, connected cars or smart TVs.

Some authorities will purchase products and assess privacy communications right out of the box. They may even put the products to use to get a first-hand look at what personal information is being collected and whether that coincides with what privacy communications say is being collected. Others will choose to examine the privacy information that’s available through the manufacturer’s website. In other instances, authorities may contact the manufacturer, retailer or data controller directly with specific privacy questions. The OPC will use all three methodologies.

The goal of the international Sweep is 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 raised during the Sweep may result in follow-up work such as outreach to organizations and/or enforcement action.

This year’s Sweep theme—the Internet of Things—dovetails other initiatives by the OPC in this emerging area. For example, in February the Office published a research paper on the subject.

The body as information, a term used to describe privacy concerns surrounding the increased use of highly sensitive health, genetic and biometric information, was also identified among four strategic privacy priorities that will guide the OPC’s work over the next five years. The focus on health devices during this year’s Sweep builds on the OPC’s work in this area.

The results of the Sweep will be compiled and made public in the fall.

About the Global Privacy Enforcement Network

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

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:

Valerie Lawton
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

See also:
The Internet of Things - An introduction to privacy issues with a focus on the retail and home environments
GPEN 2015 Results

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