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5 Privacy-Enhancing Tips from Canada's Leading Tech Minds

Want to improve your online privacy? During last weekend's Privacy and Access 20/20 conference in Vancouver, we asked five of Canada's leading privacy thinkers to give us a piece of privacy-enhancing homework. Here's what they assigned....
The commissioner says few businesses have a data privacy officer. (Shutterstock)

Want to improve your online privacy?

During last weekend's Privacy and Access 20/20 conference in Vancouver, we asked five of Canada's leading privacy thinkers to give us a piece of privacy-enhancing homework. Here's what they assigned.


Ask Questions

Elizabeth Denham is B.C.'s Information and Privacy Commissioner. She recommends asking questions. Lots of questions.

"Ask questions of the companies you're dealing with - of the online companies and the brick and mortar companies... Ask them how they're using your personal information. Ask them for their privacy policy. Be your own privacy commissioner and just pay attention."


Be Prudent About Permissions

Fiaaz Walji is the General Manager and Senior Director for Websense Canada. He recommends paying close attention to smartphone app permissions.

"I would suggest that you go to your settings see what apps are looking for what information. And truly look it and say, 'Do I really need my Starbucks app to know exactly where I am?' It's great because it will help you find a Starbucks store but I think you can find them without the app."


Don't Accept Defaults

Charmaine Borg is the digital issues critic for the New Democratic Party. She suggests tweaking default privacy settings to better match your preferences.

"One thing I actually did this summer was I gave a digital literacy tour where I taught people about how they can better protect their privacy. Some of the things I was telling them was delete your cookies, go through default settings of your social media sites, go change them to the privacy that you want for yourself. There are tools out there like Google Dashboard where you can go and correct the information they have on you or ask them to simply stop tracking you."


Watch the Watchers

Kevin Haggerty is a Professor of Criminology and Sociology at the University of Alberta who specializes in surveillance. He recommends a piece of surveillance software.

"I would suggest that people go to a website called Ghostery. It's free. You install this little program, and all it does is it gives you a little box when you're surfing the internet and the box just keeps track of all the companies that are tracking you at any time. This may be 4. It may be 14.

"And just pay attention. Watch how many companies are paying attention to you. Why are there more at some sites than at other sites?

"Then do a bit of Google searching and try to figure out 'Who are these companies? Why are they collecting this information?'"


Read the Terms and Conditions

Ian Kerr holds the Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law & Technology at the University of Ottawa. He thinks Canadians should pay closer attention to Terms and Conditions and privacy policies before they click the "I agree" button.

"I still think it's really important to read [standard form agreements] and to understand them, and to continue to put up a fuss about the fact that they are being served up those terms and only those terms. It's not good enough to simply click and say "I agree." Even if you agree... there should still be this knowing voice of dissent alongside of the click, rather than simply succumbing to all of this."


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