The answer depends on where you live and what you are doing. In Canada, the view seems to be that our privacy is increasingly eroding. As the Globe and Mail reported today, the federal government is set to push forward two bills that will provide police with new powers to obtain and monitor Canadians’ private data. While Bill C-13 is being tabled as a cyberbullying law, it also contains clauses giving governments greater powers to monitor cellphones and other electronic data and to track people. That “bundling” has drawn criticism from Ontario and BC’s privacy commissioners who have called for Bill C-13 to be split apart so that the cyberbullying provisions are separated from changes to law enforcement powers affecting Canadian’s privacy. These bills come on the heels of a warning from the federal privacy commissioner that Ottawa’s collection of data from Canadians’ social media accounts may violate the Privacy Act. This is of great interest to our clients and should be to all Canadians, given the potential impact on how much of our private information is protected.
In contrast to Canada, privacy rights have been bolstered by a ruling of the European Union’s Court of Justice, which found that people have “a right to be forgotten”. The Globe and Mail also reported today that the EU court ruled that individuals have the right to ask Google to delete out of date, irrelevant or inadequate search-engine references to themselves. While the ruling only applies to search results, not to the underlying pages with actual references, it could make it more difficult to find information on-line because, if requested, Google must close the link to on-line material. Only time will tell just how effective a “scrub” this may be, however.
These articles highlight that we need to be more aware of our on-line footprints.