Canadians need better tools to help them to protect their online reputation, says a new report by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
The report highlights measures such as the right to ask search engines to de-index web pages that contain inaccurate, incomplete or outdated information; removal or amendment of information at the source; and education to help develop responsible, informed online citizens.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s draft Position on Online Reputation aims to highlight existing protections in Canada’s federal private sector privacy law, identify potential legislative changes and propose other solutions for consideration.
The report follows a consultation process aimed at identifying new and innovative ways to protect reputational privacy, a key OPC priority. A discussion paper and call for essays resulted in 28 submissions from stakeholders which helped inform this report.
With respect to existing protections, the report notes that the federal private sector privacy law provides for a right to de-indexing – which removes links from search results without deleting the content itself – under certain circumstances and upon request.
Canadians should also be permitted to easily delete information they’ve posted about themselves on a commercial forum, for instance a social media site. In cases where others have posted information about an individual, they have a right to challenge and seek amendment to demonstrably illegal, inaccurate, incomplete and out of date information, the report says.
All of these considerations need to be balanced with other important values such as freedom of expression and public interest.
While the combination of the ability to request de-indexing and source takedown of information shares similarities with the Right to Erasure (Right to be Forgotten) in Europe, the report does not seek to import a European framework into Canada. Rather, it is an interpretation of current Canadian law, and the remedies related to online reputation that can be found within the existing law.
The report also emphasizes the importance of privacy education.
Along with its provincial and territorial counterparts, the OPC has sent a joint letter to the Canadian Council of Ministers of Education calling for privacy protection to be incorporated into curriculum for digital education across the country.
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