Canada can do more to pro­tect chil­dren on­line

The Labradorian - - EDITORIAL - Owen Char­ters, Pres­i­dent and CEO Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada Toronto

My seven-year-old uses a tablet. I can mon­i­tor what he down­loads and plays. But re­cently he has been tempted by ads and click­bait in his favourite games, tar­geted to his age group.

Per­son­al­ized ads. Sug­gested posts. Rec­om­mended fol­lows. Ev­ery day, adults con­sent to mon­i­tor­ing, to habit track­ing, to “tai­lored ex­pe­ri­ences.”

But rules re­gard­ing con­sent don’t ap­ply to Cana­dian chil­dren.

The Wall Street Jour­nal re­ports that pop­u­lar chil­dren’s web­sites in the U.S. in­stall more track­ing soft­ware than sites aimed at adults. These track­ing tools fol­low our chil­dren as they surf the web, col­lect­ing data about their be­hav­iour and in­ter­ests. This in­for­ma­tion is of­ten sold to mar­ket­ing com­pa­nies.

There are end­less pub­lic aware­ness cam­paigns ded­i­cated to cy­ber­bul­ly­ing. Change is hap­pen­ing. But with the fo­cus on those dis­cus­sions, chil­dren’s pri­vacy rights in Canada have been placed on the back burner. Our neigh­bours to the south have al­ready taken ac­tion. In the U.S., parental con­cerns about pri­vacy pro­tec­tion for chil­dren have led to leg­is­la­tion. The Chil­dren’s On­line Pri­vacy Pro­tec­tion Act (COPPA) re­quires parental con­sent for col­lect­ing per­sonal in­for­ma­tion from chil­dren un­der 13.

There is no such law in Canada. The Pri­vacy Com­mis­sioner has is­sued guide­lines that are sim­i­lar to COPPA, but they are not en­force­able by Cana­dian law.

The Cana­dian gov­ern­ment needs to take steps to pro­tect the pri­vacy of our young peo­ple by cre­at­ing an on­line pri­vacy act spe­cific to chil­dren and youth.

Cana­dian chil­dren are ac­cess­ing the In­ter­net at a younger age than ever be­fore, of­ten on hand­held de­vices. In 2015, the Of­fice of the Pri­vacy Com­mis­sioner (OPC) par­tic­i­pated in a global sweep that de­ter­mined many web­sites and de- velop­ers were fail­ing to ad­e­quately pro­tect chil­dren’s pri­vacy. In Canada, 62 per cent re­ported that they may dis­close per­sonal in­for­ma­tion to third parties.

The Per­sonal In­for­ma­tion Pro­tec­tion and Elec­tronic Doc­u­ments Act (PIPEDA) sets the rules for how Cana­dian busi­nesses han­dle per­sonal in­for­ma­tion. There are pro­posed amend­ments to PIPEDA that will bet­ter pro­tect the pri­vacy of mi­nors, but to date those amend­ments have not taken ef­fect.

Mean­while, chil­dren are be­ing mon­i­tored by com­pa­nies with profit, not pri­vacy, in mind.

We call on the gov­ern­ment to in­tro­duce fed­eral leg­is­la­tion that will bet­ter pro­tect our chil­dren. Canada needs its own chil­dren’s on­line pri­vacy pro­tec­tion act.

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