On May 6, 2011 the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (“OPC”) released the final report of its consultations on the online tracking, profiling and targeting of consumers by marketers and other businesses.
The final report is a result of a consultation process with academics, advocates, industry associations, public sector representatives and other privacy informed individuals to address issues related to online tracking, profiling and targeting, and cloud computing. From the consultations, an interim report was released in October 2010 and further input was generated over the winter. The final report urges organizations that engage in behavioural advertising to collect personal information only for reasonable and appropriate purposes. It also urges organizations that track the online activities of Canadian consumers to be upfront about their practices. In particular, the Commissioner emphasized that consumers must provide meaningful informed consent before profiling and targeting technologies are implemented.
In addition, the report discusses the blurring of the public/private divide and that individuals should feel comfortable creating online profiles and engaging on social networking websites without becoming unintended consumers. The OPC challenged the industry to find ways to help data expire and to keep in mind that PIPEDA is clear that personal information can only be kept as long as it is needed. Further, the report concludes that there is a need to address the serious issue of tracking the on-line activities and personal information of children. In particular, a framework needs to be in place to protect children with regards to behavioural advertising.
The OPC also explored the privacy issues raised by cloud computing, particularly among small and medium-sized enterprises. The report calls “for the development of strong standards to ensure the security of personal information stored or processed on cloud servers.”
The Privacy Commissioner of Canada is mandated by Parliament to act as an ombudsman and guardian of privacy in Canada. It plans to apply the knowledge from the consultation process to inform the next Parliamentary review of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (“PIPEDA”), Canada's federal private-sector privacy law.