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The Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada (IAB), notified its members on Wednesday, Jan. 14, that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is launching a research project to determine if some of Canada’s most popular websites are compliant with Canadian privacy laws.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner will study, “the degree that organizations are acting in compliance with PIPEDA,” according to a letter from Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien to the Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada. The aim of this research is to also educate more businesses and consumers about privacy.

Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA) in Canada is covered by PIPEDA, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. PIPEDA establishes ground rules for how the private sector can collect, use or disclose personal information in the course of commercial activities. “The law gives individuals the right to access and request correction of the personal information these organizations may have collected about them,” notes the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s website. “In general, PIPEDA applies to organizations’ commercial activities in all provinces, except organizations that collect, use or disclose personal information entirely within provinces that have their own privacy laws, which have been declared substantially similar to the federal law. In such cases, it is the substantially similar provincial law that will apply instead of PIPEDA, although PIPEDA continues to apply to federal works, undertakings or businesses and to interprovincial or international transfers of personal information.”

For instance, PIPEDA states that medical information cannot be tracked. An article in the Global and Mail shared the story of a man who searched on Google for sleep apnea treatments and was served ads related to the devices he was searching for. Stories such as these have caused the Privacy Commissioner to take a closer look at privacy compliance.

In 2011, to help businesses comply, the Office of Privacy Commissioner of Canada issued guidelines, defining personal information, user choice and tracking of children.

With the proliferation of connected devices and big data, privacy and OBA practices are under even more scrutiny.

In 2013, the industry established the DAAC – the Digital Advertising Alliance of Canada. Similar to the DAA of the U.S., this self-regulatory group is made-up of advertisers, agencies and other self-regulatory groups. The DAAC is part of a global movement to guide companies in providing transparency to consumers and give them the option to opt-out of ads with the AdChoices icon.

“I don’t think there’s a huge privacy problem,” Wally Hill, senior vice president of government and consumer affairs at the Canadian Marketing Association and chair of the DAAC, told the Global and Mail. “The question is, are consumers as aware as they could be – and as the Privacy Commissioner’s office would like them to be – about online data collection, interest-based advertising, and their options?”

Results of the study are expected to be released in the spring.

Has your company taken steps to comply with PIPEDA? Tell us about the process in the comments.