The Internet, surveillance, and privacy

Canada is a highly connected country: 96 percent of us have access to the internet. As technologies have improved to allow corporations, law enforcement and others to gather information and monitor activities online, media reports about violations or breaches of privacy are more and more frequent.

Surveillance and algorithmic decision-making

Sociologist and surveillance scholar David Lyon defines surveillance as “any collection and processing of personal data, whether identifiable or not, for the purposes of influencing or managing those whose data have been garnered.”

Surveillance techniques

Thanks to the networked nature of the internet, in which information is always flowing both ways, there's no shortage of ways for apps, devices and websites to collect information about us.

Privacy impacts of advertising and marketing

It’s as important for advertisers to reach the right people as it is to make an appealing ad, so they have developed many different ways of targeting ads effectively. Online advertising lets marketers match different ads with individual users. This section looks at how that’s done and how it affects kids’ privacy.

Privacy Ethics

One of the biggest ethical decisions young people have to make is how to handle other people’s personal information. Because nearly all of the services and platforms youth use online are networked, every time a friend or contact posts something they have to decide whether and how to share it. As well, youth may inadvertently share others’ personal information when posting their own content.

Techniques for literacy

"Given the opportunity, young people do care about issues relating to the harnessing and use of their information online. They want to know what information is being taken from them, and why. They want companies to be more open about how data is being used."

Teaching Privacy Ethics

With younger children, the best approach is to have a clear and consistent set of rules, both at home and at school, about sharing other people’s content.


Internationally, a wide range of legislation has been developed in order to manage and protect individual’s personal information. Canada’s public and private sector are governed separately in terms of privacy protection.