Advice and answers on what's going on with your data

A popular warning from parents to their kids goes something along the lines of "if you put it on the Internet, it'll stay there forever." Government and businesses are beginning to learn that lesson the hard way — not only is the online world increasing in scope and size, but so are the threats to personal information.
The entrance sign to Facebook headquarters is seen in Menlo Park, California, on Wednesday, October 10, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage - RC1443F580F0 (Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters)
Listen5:21

A popular warning from parents to their kids goes something along the lines of "if you put it on the Internet, it'll stay there forever."

Government and businesses are beginning to learn that lesson the hard way — not only is the online world increasing in scope and size, but so are the threats to personal information.

New changes to privacy laws in Canada came into effect on Nov. 1, changing the regulations and reporting procedures for companies that handle sensitive data.

Companies now have to tell people if their information has been breached, inform the government of the issue, and keep a record of any and all breaches.

"This act is a good step in the right direction," David Masson, the Canadian leader of Darktrace, a company that deals with AI and cybersecurity, told The House.

"We've been in the wild wild west of the Internet for a long time."

Masson explained it currently takes an average of 200 days for a hack or breach to be detected.

"They don't see anything until the effects of what's gone wrong become apparent and that can be a long, long time."

The Canadian leader of Darktrace discusses data and protecting personal information. 3:32

The world of data isn't just evolving to the benefit of hackers.

Government agencies like Statistics Canada are starting to tap into digital streams to reach Canadians.

This includes a pilot project discovered last week that planned to request access to the financial information of 500,000 Canadian households.

The public outcry was so intense Canada's chief statistician Anil Arora confirmed his agency would put the project on hold until the anxieties can be addressed.

Despite the pushback, Jennifer Robson, a political management professor at Carleton University, told The House that there are legitimate reasons that information is being requested, no matter how poorly Statistics Canada may have publicized it.

Policy makers need the data as survey responses can be skewed because only certain demographics reply to them, so accessing the data would better allow all demographics to be represented, she explained.

PM Justin Trudeau defends Stats Canada's gathering of personal banking information of thousands of Canadians without their knowledge or consent. 2:17

Robson added that information is also helpful for updating the consumer price index, which is important for families who receive benefits like the Child Care Benefit.

In her work, she has applied to gain access to similar data and walked host Chris Hall through the rigorous vetting process required to view the information — which gets stripped of any identifiers.

"I can appreciate that people want StatsCan to be more transparent, more forthcoming, to explain things in plain language," she said. "I think that would be really important, but that's not a ideological issue, that's about being responsive to the public."

Carleton professor and researcher Jennifer Robson discusses data and protecting personal information. 5:21