Saskatchewan

Privacy chiefs seek better online protection for kids

Canada's privacy watchdogs are warning young people to protect their personal information online — and they are urging governments to help them.

Canada's privacy watchdogs are warning young people to protect their personal information online — and they are urging governments to help them.

The statement came out of a conference of privacy commissioners and ombudsmen from across the country held in Regina on Wednesday.

They're concerned about how personal information can be used by cyber bullies, stalkers and companies trying to make a buck by selling information to marketers.

The web is filled with pages of personal information, photographs and more posted by young people who think they are sharing with friends and family.

But, according to Canada's assistant privacy commissioner Liz Denham, they forget that the internet can become a permanent record of sorts — something to consider before they post.

"Beware online … be savvy online, protect your online identity," she said. "I'm not sure that all children are savvy. I don't think they understand how permanent some information that's posted on a website can be."

The privacy commissioners are launching their own website, youthprivacy.ca, with tips on what young people can do to control online information.

They're also launching a video contest on the site where youth 12 to 18 can create their own public service commercial.

Moose Jaw high school student Jeremy Tkachuk said it's good that the privacy commissioners are paying attention to issues involving young people.

"Even if you think you're protected, you're not," he said.

Tkachuk said he tends to be careful whenever he goes on social networking sites like the popular Facebook, but other people he knows aren't.

"Most people think they know what they're putting on, and think they know where it's going," he said. "I don't think that at all."

Tkachuk is aware of how the digital world tracks, and retains, everything and noted that even a straight-A student's reputation can suffer when less-than-flattering information gets posted.

"You see pictures of beer in their hands, and you end up getting a wrong impression about them," he said.

The privacy commissioners want  want website operators to put more control features on their pages, to help users limit access to information.

They also want governments to adopt tough standards when it comes to regulating companies that create websites targeted at children and teenagers.

Also important, they say, is the need for more public education so young people know they can stand up for their own rights and lodge complaints when their personal information has been mishandled.

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