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Is the government breaching your privacy rights on social media?

Is the Canadian government breaching privacy rights using social media accounts?
Is the Canadian government breaching privacy rights using social media accounts?
Photo by Omar Havana/Getty Images

For anyone in Canada, the issue being discussed around the office water coolers this week is likely whether the federal government is breaching Canadian citizens’ privacy rights by way of social media accounts. It’s an issue that became public following a House of Commons speech on Thursday, March 8. The speech came from Tony Clement, the president of the Treasury Board.

Clement’s speech was made in response to a letter initially sent to him in February from the interim privacy commissioner Chantel Bernier. The letter from Bernier to Clement explained that the government is collecting personal details from social media “without regard for accuracy, currency and accountability.” It’s an important point made as Canadian citizens do have privacy protection under the Canadian Privacy Act. The Privacy Act provides certain instances when the government is allowed to perform digital inquiry into users’ information, such as when it relates directly to an active program. There are, of course, limitations.

On Thursday, when Tony Clement gave his speech to the House of Commons, he explained that the government does look at social media to gain insights. He added though that he realizes privacy concerns need to be addressed too. Now, many privacy rights issues are concerning Canadians.

The issue of data breaches is important to Canadians as most citizens have accounts on at least one social media network. Another issue to address is whether Canadians understand what their privacy rights are on social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter? When they create personal accounts on these platforms, are they are aware that their data may be collected by the federal government of Canada?

Or, do Canadians assume that somewhere in the Terms of Service of the site it says that they do not have the right to anything private anymore? There is surely more to hear soon from Tony Clement and privacy commissioner Chantel Bernier. Check the water cooler in the office again next week to hear what else is happening with privacy rights on social media in Canada.