p2pnet news view P2P | Politics:- Canada’s federal privacy commissioner today launched a campaign to find out what Canadians think about the online tracking, profiling and targeting of surfers by marketeers and other businesses.
It’s the first in a series of public consultations focused on emerging technological trends likely to have a significant impact on Canadians, says privacy commissioner of Canada Jennifer Stoddart (right).
The OPC is accepting written submissions until March 15, and also wants to hear from anyone who’d like to take part in discussion panels in Toronto in April, and Montreal in May.
“The consultation will equip the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada with a deeper understanding of the practice of tracking, profiling and targeting consumers online,” says Stoddart. “It will also provide a forum for the exploration of the privacy implications related to this modern industry practice, and the protections that Canadians expect. Our goal, therefore, is to shine a spotlight on this evolving technological trend.”
In online consumer tracking, data about the surfing habits of individuals is collected through digital markers such as cookies, deep packet inspection and the global positioning systems (GPS) common in many mobile communications devices.
“Individuals themselves, moreover, volunteer significant amounts of personal information, especially through their participation in social networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn, and other popular web-based services such as foursquare,” says the commissioner, going on >>>
Personal data can be collated and mapped against other types of information to generate detailed personal profiles. Such profiles are valuable to marketers and other enterprises that want to target products or services to people of a particular demographic or with specific purchasing preferences. Companies may also use the information to evaluate the popularity or success of their online products or services.
Proponents say that online consumer tracking, profiling and targeting supports free Internet content, allows people to receive more relevant advertising and discount offers, and promotes the development of useful services. For example, in conjunction with data from sources such as GPS and cellular networks, users can enjoy location-based services that recommend nearby restaurants or keep tabs on the whereabouts of friends.
“Critics, however, warn that people may be unaware that their personal information is being collected, and do not understand how it is used,” says the OPC. “They also argue that, even when the information is anonymous, it can sometimes be combined with other information to identify individuals.”
The consultation will give the OPC a “comprehensive view of the privacy risks associated with the online tracking, profiling and targeting of consumers, and contribute to the development of new public education and outreach materials,” it says. “It will also help shape the Office’s input into the next parliamentary review of the private-sector Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.
A second consultation on the privacy issues emerging from the growing movement toward cloud computing “will be announced in the near future,” adds the OPC.
..… and identi.ca
privacy commissioner of Canada – Privacy Commissioner launches public consultations on emerging technologies, January 18, 2010
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