The question of online reputation

In 2015, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada chose “Reputation and Privacy” as one of its priority areas for the next five years. The OPC wanted to examine the risks “stemming from the vast amount of personal information posted online”, with the goals of enriching the public debate, ensuring they can advise Parliament effectively, and developing their own policy position on the issue. To that end, they put out a discussion paper and a call for input on online reputation and privacy.

FIPA agrees that online reputation is a hugely important subject—it affects our employability; our relationships with friends, family, and acquaintances; our connection to our younger selves; our ability to create online communities or participate in existing ones, and come together to advocate for ourselves; and our ability to learn about people in powerful positions and hold them to account—and we decided to weigh in.

We are, after all, an organization that often deals with the intersection of information freedom and the right to privacy.

So, building on the ideas and principles of set out in an earlier submission about privacy and open courts, and with an eye to our organizational values, our online reputation submission strives to paint a picture of what is needed—and what should be avoided—to allow Canadians to have control of information about them, to prevent and reduce information-based harm, and to ensure reputational privacy enhances—and does not impede—free association and democratic free expression. And we tried to keep it brief.

We started by looking at existing protections—laws, social norms, market solutions, and even online architecture—and proposed a few ways to fill in the gaps. We talked about public education that takes a rights-based approach to online reputation, higher standards for social networks’ privacy controls (including privacy protective default settings), and legislation that specifically targets problematic behaviour.

We also took a stab at what a “right to be forgotten” could look like in Canada, urging great caution and making a handful of broad recommendations.

You can see it all here, in the Policy Submissions and Letters section of the FIPA website.

Read more from the May 2016 Bulletin »