In light of concerns over modern technology and social media, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics is currently studying issues around your privacy. Today, with modern data systems, personal information can be stored and sold to those wishing to market their wares.
I was browsing the internet looking at various models of vehicles, and it was not long after that I started to receive ads from car manufacturers. At first, I did not connect the dots. Then I realized that by using my browser, the search engines and websites were personalizing ads based on my browsing history.
What other personal information about you is being used/shared without your knowledge? Service contracts have small print hidden in complicated legal jargon. For most Canadians it is too time consuming to read, therefore they just hit the ‘agree’ button and carry on. But should we require search engines, email providers and/or web companies to make these settings more obvious and easier to opt-in or -out of?
Canada has some of the most stringent privacy laws, but the challenge now is how to enforce them. If you pass a law in Canada to protect individual privacy rights, how does one apply this as the internet is international and knows no borders? The Privacy Commissioner did take Facebook to task on some of these issues and did get some of the privacy concerns addressed. But still, the attitude of many web companies across the globe is: ‘if you think we are violating your privacy rights, so what, sue us’.
At a meeting with a representative from Research In Motion (RIM), the manufacturer of Blackberry, the question was asked – what’s Blackberry’s future? The answer was your passport, drivers licence, bank card, banking information, health card and every piece of personal information will be stored on whatever handheld device you use. Additionally, some iPhones and text devices have GPS services that can track the customer wherever they go. Is all or any of this acceptable?
Possible outcomes of the study may include more requirements for transparent service provider contracts, tougher penalties for violations of privacy, and the ability for Canadians to access and/or retrieve their personal information stored with advertisers and/or web companies.
I look forward to reading the recommendations of this study, once completed, and will report back to you.
Colin Mayes MP
Okanagan - Shuswap