Online privacy : Avoiding pitfalls

Quoted as privacy expert and interviewed on how to avoid security breaches.

As complaints and snafus increase, privacy watchdogs are ramping up efforts to protect information. Find out what’s new

Financial advisors getting back to business after the summer will want to take notice of some initiatives by the privacy regulators, especially when it comes to advisors’ websites.

British Columbia has been among the most aggressive regarding the policing of the privacy policies of businesses on the Internet. In August, the B.C. privacy commissioner posted new guidelines for businesses to improve privacy of the users of businesses’ websites.

B.C.’s new guidelines include: providing enough information so visitors know what personal information is being collected; informing visitors if you’re using cookies to collect personal information; making sure visitors know they can access their personal information; and writing the privacy policy in plain language.

“There are challenges to doing this,” says Timothy Banks, a privacy expert at the Toronto branch of global law firm Dentons LLP. “But the reality is that the client/advisor relationship is built on trust and the confidentiality of personal information, so you don’t want to make a misstep simply because you’re not paying sufficient attention to what should go into your disclosure.”

“It just seems that some organizations aren’t taking these [privacy] laws seriously enough.”

It’s also clear that these types of reminders are likely to become more common in the future. B.C.’s new guidelines follow the first ever international sweep of business websites by the Global Privacy Enforcement Network, held this past May in conjunction with privacy regulators around the world. The sweep was intended to duplicate what companies are telling their customers about the amount and type of personal information collected on their websites.

The B.C. privacy commissioner and the Privacy Commissioner of Canada released the results of this sweep for their jurisdictions in mid-August. (B.C., Alberta and Quebec have regulations that are substantially similar to the federal rules.) The results for B.C. showed that 45% of a sample of 250 websites doing business in the province did not have an online privacy policy, more than twice the global average. Where there were policies, many didn’t provide enough information to users about the type and amount of personal information being collected.
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This content has been updated on August 23, 2014 at 14 h 14 min.