TORONTO, Jan. 25, 2012 /CNW/ - Ontario's Information and Privacy
Commissioner, Dr. Ann Cavoukian, says that people's perceptions of
their privacy and anonymity online fall far short of reality. In fact,
technology has evolved to the point that the seemingly unrelated pieces
of information that people share about themselves online, may now be
linked together, to create a detailed profile of an individual.
"We have reached a point where information - not only
strongly-identifiable Social Insurance Numbers, but also IP addresses,
licence plate numbers, and mobile devices - serve as pointers to
personally-identifiable information, through an ever-expanding web of
data linkages. This bears little resemblance to anonymous
information," the Commissioner said.
New analytic tools and algorithms now make it possible - not only to
link numbers to names - but to also combine information from multiple
sources, ultimately creating an accurate profile of a
personally-identifiable individual - and in the process, to reveal
their online activities.
"Imagine a scenario where your 'anonymous' comments on a newspaper
website or in an online chat forum, could be tracked back to you
personally, simply by linking your IP address and browser data across
multiple platforms," the Commissioner said.
The Commissioner's advice to consumers: As people share more and more
personal information about themselves in new ways (such as personal
blogs and social networking sites), they need to consider the nature of
the information they share, and how their personal information might be
At the same time, she urges organizations that collect and use this data
to offer consumers a clear, easy-to-use mechanism to opt out of the
collection and use of their personal information. Better still - make
privacy the default setting.
The Commissioner's comments come in advance of International Data
Privacy Day, January 28, which promotes awareness and education about
privacy and best practices relating to data protection.
To commemorate International Privacy Day, the Commissioner is holding a
public Symposium on Friday January 27, Beware of "Surveillance by Design:" Standing Up for Freedom and Privacy, where highly-respected thought leaders will discuss the privacy
implications of proposed federal bills providing police with "lawful
access" to individuals' telecommunications. Details can be found at www.realprivacy.ca.
About the IPC
The Information and Privacy Commissioner is appointed by and reports to
the Ontario Legislative Assembly, and is independent of the government
of the day. The Commissioner's mandate includes overseeing the access
and privacy provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, as well as the Personal Health Information Protection Act, which applies to both public and private sector health information
custodians. A vital component of the Commissioner's mandate is to help
educate the public about access and privacy issues.
SOURCE Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner/Ontario
For further information:
Direct line: 416-326-3939