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Privacy Commissioner issues online tracking guidelines

Privacy Commissioner of Canada Jennifer Stoddart has released a new set of guidelines for online advertisers setting out restrictions on the tracking of consumer behaviour over time. The guidelines are intended to assure that advertisers are in compliance with Canada's federal private-sector privacy law, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. The new guidance document says information about behavioural advertising should be clear, obvious and understandable. in addition, accepting participation in online behavioural advertising should not be considered a condition for people to use the Internet generally. People must also be able to easily opt out of this practice. The guidelines furthermore state that organizations should avoid knowingly tracking children and avoid collecting sensitive material such as health information. "The use of online behavioural advertising has exploded and we're concerned that Canadians' privacy rights aren't always being respected," said Stoddart. "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. If an individual can't say no to the technology being used for tracking or targeting, then the industry shouldn't use that technology for behavioural advertising purposes. So, in the current online behavioural advertising environment, that means no use of web bugs or web beacons, no super cookies, no pixel hacks, no device fingerprinting and no to any new covert tracking technique of which the user is unaware and has no reasonable way to decline. The approach we're taking, as prescribed under Canadian law, is reasonable. It allows industry to be innovative and to grow while respecting individuals' right to privacy."

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