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    Privacy Commissioner of Canada Releases Guidance on Online Advertising and Tracking

    Jennifer Stoddart, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, has released new guidelines, “Privacy and Online Behavioural Advertising” (html; pdf). In a press release, Stoddart said, “The use of online behavioural advertising has exploded and we’re concerned that Canadians’ privacy rights aren’t always being respected […] Many Canadians don’t know how they’re being tracked – and that’s no surprise because, in too many cases, they have to dig down to the bottom of a long and legalistic privacy policy to find out.”

    Here’s an excerpt from the report:

    Online behavioural advertising involves tracking consumers’ online activities over time in order to deliver advertisements targeted to their inferred interests. Behavioural advertisers often use sophisticated algorithms to analyze the collected data, build detailed personal profiles of users, and assign them to various interest categories. Interest categories are used to present ads defined as relevant to users in those categories.

    While advertising may help subsidize the delivery of free online content desired by most users, it is nevertheless essential that online advertising practices respect an individual’s privacy rights and consent choices.

    Online behavioural advertising may be considered a reasonable purpose under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), provided it is carried out under certain parameters, and is not made a condition of service.

    The following guidelines were developed to help the various types of organizations involved in online behavioural advertising ensure that their practices are fair, transparent and in compliance with PIPEDA. Any future complaints concerning online behavioural advertising would be assessed based on the specific facts of each individual case. […]

    PIPEDA requires an individual’s knowledge and consent for the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information. PIPEDA also requires that the purposes for which an individual’s information is to be collected, used or disclosed be explained in a clear and transparent manner. In addition, PIPEDA does recognize that the form of consent can vary: for example, express consent (opt-in) when dealing with sensitive information, and implied consent (opt-out) when the information is less sensitive. It is important to note that the sensitivity of information depends on the nature of the information and the context in which it is being collected, used or disclosed.

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