The Internet lets you share information with anyone, anywhere, at any time, but not without some peril to your privacy, Canada’s Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart warned today.
“There are nearly two billion people now using the Internet,” the Commissioner noted in a message about Data Privacy Day, which is observed every January 28. “That’s two billion people who can potentially access information about you with the click of a button.”
The Commissioner said Canadians, especially the many young people who spend time online, need to recognize that, on the Internet, they are not always among friends. “So whenever you put your personal information in cyberspace, whether accidentally or by design, it may be impossible to control who uses it and how.”
But what’s the risk?
“Strangers could use it to embarrass you or damage your reputation,” Commissioner Stoddart explains. “Businesses could use it to track your personal likes and dislikes, without your knowledge or consent. It could also be stolen and used in ways that cause you significant personal and financial harm.”
You may not realize it, but whenever you go online, you’re building an identity through the words and images you post and the activities you do. This can become part of your reputation, and it can be a lasting one. Once personal information goes online, it may be difficult to delete. While you may be able to delete it in one place, there may be cached versions or copies stored elsewhere that you cannot control. Digital storage is cheap and computer memory is plentiful. “And, unlike people, the Net never forgets,” Commissioner Stoddart says.
So it’s important to think about what you’re doing online, and to always protect your information.
The quantity, accessibility and persistence of personal information online affect privacy in ways that are of mounting global concern. Governments, privacy professionals, corporations, academics and students from around the world are marking the annual Data Privacy Day to help raise awareness about the impact that technology is having on our privacy rights and to promote the protection of personal information.
In recognition of Data Privacy Day, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada will be running an online draw for prizes and sharing its Data Privacy Day resources, such as posters and fact sheets about protecting personal information on mobile devices, with other privacy regulators and organizations.
“The threats to privacy are huge and growing,” Commissioner Stoddart said. “So the protection of personal information has to be the responsibility of everyone – data-protection authorities, organizations and individuals alike, in Canada and around the world.”