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Digital Issues

Privacy, Free Expression & You Seven things you should know


the federal government announced that it would permanently kill the proposed Bill C-30, which had been largely criticized as a threat to Canadians’ digital privacy. Consumer advocacy groups like OpenMedia celebrated the death of the bill, and Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian called the bill’s defeat “a victory for privacy and for freedom.” With so much discussion about the influence of privacy on free expression, CJFE wanted to help Canadians better understand how these two issues relate to one another and impact your digital activities on a daily basis. In March 2013, CJFE held an online Q&A to help shed light on this complicated subject. Panellists Ann Cavoukian, Ontario’s information and privacy commissioner, and Wilf Dinnick, founding editor and Panellists: Ann Cavoukian, CEO of OpenFile, shared their information and privacy insights. Jesse Brown, technology commissioner of Ontario, affairs critic for and @IPCinfoprivacy columnist for Toronto Life, modWilf Dinnick, founding erated the conversation. editor and CEO of OpenFile, @WilfDinnick Here are key takeaways about digital privacy in Canada, based Moderator: Jesse Brown, technology on the Q&A and conversations affairs critic of with our panellists: N FEB. 11, 2013,


and columnist for Toronto Life, @jessebrown


EXPRESSION The connection isn’t always obvious, but your right to privacy is closely linked to your ability to freely express yourself. Without the ability to control what you say, and to whom, you would lose the comfort of freely associating, communicating and expressing yourself as you want. Fear of governments, corporations or others watching what you say also impinges on your comfort level with expressing yourself freely. 2 IT’S NOT ABOUT HAVING SOMETHING TO HIDE One of the counter-arguments that privacy advocates hear most often is, “If I have nothing to hide, I have nothing to fear.” But the issue isn’t secrecy—it’s control. You should have the right to decide how your information is collected, used and disclosed. The fight for privacy is about dignity, autonomy and the right to exercise significant control over your own person, your personal space and your personal information. 3 ANONYMITY IS IMPORTANT The debate about anonymity online is about more than whether or not real names should be required for posting comments. Whistleblowers and journalists’ anonymous sources need to be protected, and the 36 CJFE REVIEW 2013

By Laura Tribe

ability to track digital data makes this more important than ever before. If media outlets can earn their sources’ trust and ensure their protection, then sources may be more willing to come forward. 4 THERE ARE LAWS IN PLACE TO PROTECT PRIVACY In Canada, there are two main pieces of federal legislation that govern how your personal information is collected, used and disclosed. The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) regulates how personal information can be collected, used or disclosed by private sector organizations. Under this law, you have the right to access personal information about yourself that private organizations have collected, and to request that it be corrected if necessary. The Privacy Act is a similar piece of legislation that regulates the collection, use and disclosure of your information by over 250 federal government departments, and also allows you to request that your information be corrected.


Social media platforms have become closely integrated into many people’s day-to-day lives. But no matter how much you think you know about Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter, do you know what information you’re giving up and how it can be used? It’s important to educate yourself about the user agreements you’re signing, and to recognize that choosing to use these platforms to speak and share your opinions may also mean forfeiting some of your privacy rights. Knowing what you’re agreeing to, and understanding what privacy you may be sacrificing in doing so, may help you decide where to draw the line between what you say and share online and what you keep to yourself. 6 YOUR CHOICES HAVE AN IMPACT How can you stop companies and organizations from infringing on your digital privacy? Remember that your voice matters. Tell companies that fail to respect your privacy that they can’t have your business, and let those who do respect your privacy rights know how much it matters to you. 7 KNOW HOW YOUR INFORMATION CAN BE USED You don’t have to be paranoid, but be cautious. If you’re not sure who has access to your information or how it’s being used, don’t post anything you don’t want made public. Use common sense and know that, in the wrong hands, your photos, conversations and personal information may be shared with a larger audience than you intended. For examples of ways your online profile can have real-life consequences, take a look at this interesting campaign from Amnesty International, scan your Facebook timeline and see what punishments you might have received in different countries around the world at To learn more about how the violation of an individual’s privacy can affect free expression, read “Under the Microscope” on page 16. Laura Tribe is CJFE’s web and social media editor.

Privacy, Free Expression, & You  

Seven things you should know about your online privacy, extracted from our 2012/2013 Review of Free Expression

Privacy, Free Expression, & You  

Seven things you should know about your online privacy, extracted from our 2012/2013 Review of Free Expression