Canada’s Privacy Commissioner says schools should prioritize privacy education


The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) has released an open letter to the Council of Ministers of Education to make privacy education a greater priority in school curricula.

The OPC cited several possible online dangers that both youth and adults can be affected by, including cyberbullying, sexting, child luring, to information and financial-related attacks such as hacking and email scams.

The OPC says that while many schools teach digital literacy skills focused on personal safety risks.

“It is important that students become savvy digital citizens who are able to enjoy the benefits of being online,” the OPC wrote in its letter. “Young people need to be equipped with the knowledge necessary to navigate the online world and participate in the digital domain while protecting their privacy.”

The OPC says that while many schools teach digital literacy skills focused on personal safety risks or acquiring skills for future careers, there is little to no information offered on actual privacy protection. “With the exception of certain one-time initiatives, privacy is not necessarily a part of the courses offered, and many students graduate high school never having learned how to think critically about the information they emit into cyberspace or how to safeguard their digital footprint,” the OPC said in the letter. “This leaves them at unnecessary risk.”

Specifically, the OPC pointed to the example made during last year’s 38th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners, which recently adopted the Resolution for the Adoption of an International Competency Framework on Privacy Education.

According to the OPC, the framework should be followed in a number of ways in Canadian privacy education, including:

  • Being able to identify what constitutes personal information
  • Understanding the technical and economic aspects that relate to the digital environment.
  • Knowing how to limit the personal information disclosed online, and how to protect oneself online accordingly and how to protect oneself online
  • Learn how to exercise privacy rights and responsibilities as ‘digital citizens’

The OPC said it’s requesting meetings with school boards and other related officials to discuss ways to implement this kind of privacy education into curricula.

Back in October, the OPC participated in a significant review of many educational apps and found some of them to be concerning from a privacy perspective. In particular, the report noted that certain apps would collect much more information than was necessary or would not ask children to obtain consent from adults in giving out said information.

The publication of OPC’s letter falls during Media Literacy Week, which aims to promote the importance of teaching youth various digital and media literacy skills.

This article was originally published on MobileSyrup


Bradly Shankar

Fourth-year journalism student at Ryerson University.

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