Tories restrict online data mining, but not for social media

By: Brittni Reaser

The Canadian Government is restricting the data that is gathered when its citizens access government websites.

The Privacy Commissioner has been raising concerns about data mining for several years and has gotten new guidelines passed to restrict the Canadian federal government use of data gathered when their websites are visited.

The guidelines ‘prohibit the government from profiling an individual’s online activity by tracking their computer’s Internet protocol address’ and went into effect this January. Departments have to ensure that any 3rd party groups contracted to analyze online data to comply with the new rules.

While it is important to protect the information of citizens these new rules are not as comprehensive as they may seem.

First, they only apply to information gathered on government websites, not the information collected through the interaction with government on social media sites.

Second, the rules do not apply to private companies. These companies make a lucrative business data mining and can continue to do so.

Third, the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, feels that the guidelines were changed without input from the public. Further, these rules (in combination with the consolidations of government websites) will leave Canadians less protected because the information is under tighter control and the government can still monitor who is accessing the page.

Although public companies are not prohibited by the guidelines it is more important that the government be limited in their data mining abilities. Because the government can restrict one’s freedom and cut people off from government benefits. According to Martin Abrams, President of  Centre for Information Policy Leadership.

This step taken by the Canadian is important to the future of information privacy online. Though everyone may not be satisfied with the rules, it is an important first step on this major issue. The next step could be restrictions on the private sector or not allowing government to use any data from citizens other than what is specifically given to them. If this rule becomes the norm worldwide, the US government will follow suite and makes changes to its data mining policy and afford Americans more privacy and our information more protection.