Archive for the ‘Social Networks’ Category

26 Sep 2012

New presentation helps kids in grades 4 to 6 understand their online footprint

Canadian kids are communicating online more than ever before, and are using tools like Skype sometimes even before they learn to walk. Many of us are astonished at how easily they adapt to new devices that connect to the Internet and at how these devices can quickly become part of their lives, as they use them to chat, surf, post, play and learn.

Many kids, however, don’t fully understand the impact that some online activities have on their privacy. They don’t understand the digital footprint they are leaving behind.

For this reason, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has added a new component to its Protecting Your Online Rep presentation series. Today, we are launching Understanding Your Online Footprint: How to protect your personal information on the Internet, a presentation for young people in grades 4 to 6. The package includes slides, speaking notes and discussion topics for educators, community leaders and parents to speak with young people about online privacy.

The new presentation is packed with practical advice and features graphics and speaking notes that are tailored to the social realities and online activities of kids in grades 4 to 6. The goal of this tool is to help demonstrate how kids in this age group can use the Internet and have fun, without giving away too much of their personal information.

If you haven’t already checked them out, make sure to look at the presentation package for students in grades 7 and 8 (Secondary I to II in Quebec) and the presentation package for students in grades 9 to 12 (Secondary III to V in Quebec).

And if you have any questions or comments about our latest presentation, please let us know in the comments section below. Your feedback helps us improve the resources we develop.

26 Sep 2011

Privacy: Let’s see what they think!

We’re launching our fourth annual My Privacy & Me Video Contest, where students aged 12 to 18 show us what they have to say about privacy.

To participate, we’re asking them to create their own video public service announcements about privacy issues related to any one of these four categories:

  • mobile devices;
  • social networking;
  • online gaming; or
  • cybersecurity.

All contest details can be found here.

Entries must be submitted by teams of one or two people. Schools may submit up to 10 different videos. (If a school has more than 10 videos to submit, we suggest a contest be held within the school to select the 10 best submissions for this contest).

First-place winners in each category will receive a $350 gift card, second-place winners will receive a $200 gift card, and third-place winners will win a $100 gift card. The deadline is Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012 at noon ET.

For inspiration, we encourage teams to watch the 2010 winning videos. Then, power up their video cameras, and show us what they have to say!

9 Sep 2011

OPC Unveils New Youth Privacy Tool

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is launching a new youth privacy tool that will help teachers and community leaders talk with younger Canadians about their privacy online.

The tool launched today is called Protecting Your Online Rep and comes right in time for back-to-school. It offers people who work with youth all the information necessary to provide an engaging and effective presentation in their own school or community.

The package includes a PowerPoint presentation with detailed speaking notes for each slide, along with class discussion topics, for Grades 9 to 12 (Secondary III to V in Quebec). Educators and others interested in delivering the presentation can find the package here.

The goal of the new tool is to teach young people that technology can affect their privacy, and to show them how to build a secure online identity and keep their personal information safe.

Link to news release

20 Jul 2011

Young Canadians in a Wired World – Phase III is Here!

The Media Awareness Network, benefactor of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner’s Contributions Program, has launched the third Phase (Phase III) of its ongoing study, Young Canadians in a Wired World (YCWW). This third phase is a crucial element to the project, as it will shed a more distinct light on the need for online education resources in classrooms and communities.

The study is the most comprehensive and wide-ranging study of youth internet use in Canada. The project tracks and investigates the behaviours, attitudes, and opinions of Canadian children and youth with respect to their use of the Internet. There have been two previous phases over seven years. The first comprised of telephone interviews with parents, focus groups with parents and children and quantitative research findings from a national school-based survey of 5,682 students in grades 4 – 11. The second stage includes qualitative research findings from focus groups with parents and young people aged 11 – 17, and quantitative research findings from a national school-based survey of 5,272 students from grades 4 – 11. You can find more information on these first two phases here.

MNet’s research has gathered a wealth of information about the online activities of Canadian youth, and has raised a number of privacy issues that require society’s attention. Perhaps most importantly, the research has highlighted the importance of education as a key response in helping young people make smart and informed online decisions, as well as stay safe online.

The third phase in MNet’s research will help inform public policy and support the development of relevant digital literacy resources for Canadian homes, schools, and communities. MNet has already begun implementing the new research through various interviews and focus groups. Phase III of the research project is scheduled to be completed in 2012, finishing with a nation-wide field study of a representative sample of Canadian students and teachers.

Stay tuned for more updates about this exciting endeavour.

For more information, please contact Francois Cadieux at

13 Jun 2011

Privacy Leakage on Popular Web Sites

We have been following recent cases where online social networks have been accused of leaking personal information to third parties. The leakage is caused by the networks’ use of referrer headers (information about where on the web a user is coming from) that can include the username, allowing automatic linking to profile information if it is available.

New research from AT&T and Worcester Polytechnic shows that it is not just online social networks that are leaking information. In fact, more than half of the popular web sites examined in this study are also leaking personal information. The research was presented at the Web 2.0 Security and Privacy 2011 Workshop and the paper is available.

The major finding of the research is that 56% of the 120 popular web sites examined leak personal information to third parties in a variety of ways. This includes cookies, referrer headers, GET parameters, etc. The authors also show how identifying information can be used to link users across different sites.

The report is notable because it goes beyond online social networks to look at the practices of a variety of web sites that simply require people to create accounts. Leakage of private information, some of it identifying and/or sensitive, seems to be a common issue.

The authors also argue that the source of the problems is often the practices of the first parties, either through neglect or deliberate practices, and yet the current focus has been on third-parties. They show that the tools currently being debated, developed deployed, such as do-not-track headers in web browsers, will do little to solve the problem.

We continue to be interested in the privacy practices of web sites and online services, and we are monitoring the development of new web privacy practices and tools.

9 Mar 2011

A creepy app

While there are always advance warnings about the potential privacy risks of emerging technologies, it usually takes a “killer app” for people to take notice of the real dangers. For geotagging, that app is the rather aptly named creepy.

Photo geotagging — the embedding of geographical location information within digital photos — is becoming increasingly common as a side effect of regulation by the US Federal Communications Commission.  By September 11, 2012, American mobile wireless service providers are required to provide precise location data to improve 911 emergency service. To meet this directive, more and more mobile phones sold in North America now have built-in GPS chips.

Often times, the embedding is automatic. If consumers take a picture with their GPS-enabled phone and haven’t specifically disabled geotagging, the coordinates where the photograph was taken become a digital record contained within the picture file. If enough of these location-tagged photographs are taken and uploaded to on-line sharing services, the aggregated GPS information can indicate a pattern of behaviour. If your picture gallery also contains a self-portrait, it becomes possible for strangers to track you down in person.

Creepy can harvest data from a dozen of the most popular photo hosts, including flickr, twitpic and yfrog, then illustrate any found location data with Google Maps. The result is a visual cluster of your usual whereabouts: your favourite park, your place of employment, or your home.

Have you checked your mobile’s camera settings for mention of geotagging or EXIF data embedding? If not, now is a good time to familiarize yourself with the configuration screen. Consider turning those “features” off, unless you have reason to do otherwise.

7 Sep 2010

Know a Young Person Who’d Like to Win an iPad?

We’re launching our 2010 My Privacy & Me Video Contest for 12-18-year-olds – and the first-place winners will win an iPad!

It’s the same thing this year – but a little different, too! Again, we’re asking them to create their own public service announcements about privacy. But this year, we’d like the videos to fall into one of four categories: Surveillance; Reputation Management; Targeted Advertising; or Online Scams. You can find all contest details here.

This year, teams can consist of one to three people. First-place winners in each category will win an iPad. Second-place winners will win a $200 gift card; and third-place winners will win a $100 gift card. We’ve recognized top-participating schools and teachers in the past, and we have something in store for them in 2010! The deadline is December 10, 2010.

For inspiration, sit down with your young ones and watch the 2009 winning videos. Then, have them start exercising their video-making muscles – we can’t wait to see what they’ve got!

21 Jul 2010

Location, location, location

Do you know how your location information is used?  A recent survey commissioned by security company, Webroot, asked 1,645 social network users in the U.S. and UK who own location-enabled mobile devices about their use of location-based tools and services.  The survey found that 39 percent of respondents reported using geo-location on their mobile devices and more than half (55 percent) of those users are worried about their loss of privacy. 

A few notable concerns over security and privacy: 49 percent of women (versus 32 percent of men) were highly concerned about letting a would-be stalker know where they are and nearly half (45 percent) are very concerned about letting potential burglars know when they’re away from home (a very real risk outlined nicely by

The growing popularity of geo-location tools and services (including offerings by industry giants such as Twitter, Apple, Facebook and Google) means that location information is being collected on a colossal scale and the real and potential uses for this information are just starting to work themselves out – from iPhone photos tagged with GPS coordinates to location-based gaming platforms such as Scvngr that enable mobile users to create their own location-based games.

This increase in the collection and use of location information can also pose unique risks for users.  The survey summary notes that a surprising number of respondents engaged in behaviors such as sharing location information with people other than friends that could put them, and their private information, at risk.  A blogger recently wrote about her experience with location sharing gone wrong and Foursquare was recently blasted for unintentional data leakage via their popular location-based service. 

As we note in our recent submission to Industry Canada’s Digital Economy Consultation, good privacy practices can support innovation by reinforcing confidence in users that they have the right to control their personal information and that the technology they use is secure.  With location information, the usual privacy concerns abound and with each cool, new service that hits the market. How to communicate these risks to consumers is something that occupies a great deal of our time.  Dealing with the privacy concerns of location information during the design phase for new services would help businesses avoid expensive (both financial and reputational) after-the-fact privacy fixes and might even provide those privacy-friendly businesses with a significant competitive advantage

16 Jun 2010


Two years ago, we launched our website to engage people on the issues around young people and digital privacy.

When we launched, Twitter had about 500,000 users, Google was rumoured to be entering the mobile phone market, and the idea of managing your digital footprint was just gaining some steam.

To say a lot has changed over the last 24 months would be an understatement.

We want to redesign the site to better present existing and new content, and highlight resources and work being done elsewhere on the topic. We also want the process of rebuilding this website to be open and transparent. We feel that there is a much larger community of public servants and private citizens with the experience, the expertise and the skill sets to make this a useful and highly collaborative exercise.

After all, why build communities of practice if we only continue to build projects within silos and concealed behind departmental garden walls?

We are inviting input from people with interest and expertise from both within government (specifically #w2p and #ux communities of practice, and those with experience reaching out to young people and engaging in public education and social marketing) and external to government (non-profit sector, educators and librarians, young people themselves).

Much of the process will be run on GCpedia to facilitate contribution among Government of Canada employees. For folks external to government without access to GCpedia, we’ll provide some updates on this page – and if you have ideas on how we can open up collaboration to the outside community, let us know.

Check out the wiki page on GCpedia or this page for additional information, and let us know if you interested in pitching in. And I’ll leave you with this thought:

“It’s always easier to tame a wild idea than to invigorate a limp one.”

31 May 2010

Online privacy may not be an outdated idea after all

A few dedicated OPC staffers spend much of their time visiting schools and talking to young people about why privacy is important.  If you believe a popular line of thinking, privacy may seem to be a lost cause in the age of online social networking and “anything goes” disclosure. We who talk to youth on a regular basis, however, are always pleasantly surprised that a generation that is growing up online shows such interest and enthusiasm about protecting their information.  It’s nice when research findings reflect our day-to-day observations that many young people are in fact proactive about protecting their online privacy.

The Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project recently published a report entitled “Reputation, Management, and Social Media” in which it found that “younger users are far more active and deliberate curators of their online profiles when compared with older users.” This infographic shows other interesting report findings about how people interact and conduct themselves online.

Much of the debate around online privacy seems to revolve around binary choices: if you post information online then you can’t expect it to be private; if you join a social networking site then you must want to share your information with everyone.  But the reality is much more nuanced. As danah boyd and others have argued, people want to share information with people they themselves have chosen, via privacy settings. PEW found that 71% of social networking users ages 18-29 have changed the privacy settings on their profiles to limit what they share with others online, and 58% keep some people from seeing certain updates. Contrary to what some tech moguls might want you to believe, online privacy among young people is alive and well.