Children and youth in a digital world

Reflecting on five years of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act 

In July 2023, as part of the legislated five-year review of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA), the IPC provided comments and recommendations on ways to strengthen the access and privacy protections under the CYFSA and its regulations. Our submission called for the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services to be subject to the act’s requirements when acting as service provider and to ensure greater accountability when collecting, using, and disclosing the personal information of vulnerable children, youth, and families in Ontario. 

October 27 marked Dress Purple Day, when children’s aid societies across Ontario raise awareness about the important role that individuals and communities play in supporting vulnerable children, youth, and families. On this occasion, the IPC released new resources for individuals seeking to avail themselves of their privacy and access rights under Part X of the CYFSA. Based on our experience in interpreting and applying Part X, we updated our frequently asked questions to further elaborate on issues around consent and capacity, and clarified questions related to the custody and control of records held by child and family service providers. 

FPT resolution on youth privacy

At our 2023 annual conference in Québec City, the IPC, together with our FPT counterparts, issued a joint resolution, Putting best interests of young people at the forefront of privacy and access to personal information.  

Young people are increasingly susceptible to the unauthorized use and commercial exploitation of their personal information in ways that can negatively influence their behaviour and cause them harm. Yet, there are also wonderful opportunities for children to actively participate, grow, and flourish in the digital space. Recognizing this, the FPT privacy commissioners and ombuds discussed how to better protect youth’s privacy while also empowering them to navigate through the online world with greater confidence and autonomy. The resulting FPT resolution urges our respective governments to reform their laws to ensure stronger protections for the privacy rights of children and youth, more transparent data handling practices, and enhanced access to effective remedies for young people. The resolution also highlights the pressing need for proactive measures by both public and private sector organizations to adopt privacy best practices that prioritize the protection and empowerment of our youth in this digital age, including being transparent about what is done with children’s personal information, building in privacy by design and by default, rejecting deceptive practices that can adversely nudge kids’ behaviour in harmful ways, and allowing for the deletion or deindexing of their personal information. 

Educate to protect and empower: Privacy Pursuit! lesson plans

The IPC was proud to see the IPC’s Privacy Pursuit! lesson plans chosen as one of three finalists out of nearly 75 entries for 2023’s IAPP Privacy Innovation Awards for North America and Latin America. The IAPP Privacy Innovation Awards’ goal is to celebrate ideas and programs promoting privacy and ensure the global privacy community hears about them.

Digital Privacy Charter for Ontario Schools 

Students rely upon and trust educators, as guardians, to make important decisions for them. This is why Ontario schools have such an essential role in protecting young people’s safety online, preparing them to become responsible digital citizens and empowering them to exercise their privacy rights. In 2023, the IPC released a draft Digital Privacy Charter for Ontario Schools for public consultation. This charter consists of twelve high-level commitments that codify privacy best practices for schools to consider and adopt, consistent with Ontario’s privacy laws. 

The commitments are intended as a concrete way for schools and school boards to demonstrate their leadership, become models for others to follow, and earn the enduring trust of their students, parents, and communities. By adopting the digital charter, schools and school boards can show support for their students and help prepare them for an increasingly digital future. The commitments are also intended to promote strong privacy protections in the digital education tools and services used by schools, encourage ongoing learning about privacy in the digital world, and empower students to understand and exercise their privacy and access rights.

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