The Canadian Privacy Law Blog: Developments in privacy law and writings of a Canadian privacy lawyer, containing information related to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (aka PIPEDA) and other Canadian and international laws.

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The author of this blog, David T.S. Fraser, is a Canadian privacy lawyer who practices with the firm of McInnes Cooper. He is the author of the Physicians' Privacy Manual. He has a national and international practice advising corporations and individuals on matters related to Canadian privacy laws.

For full contact information and a brief bio, please see David's profile.

Please note that I am only able to provide legal advice to clients. I am not able to provide free legal advice. Any unsolicited information sent to David Fraser cannot be considered to be solicitor-client privileged.

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The views expressed herein are solely the author's and should not be attributed to his employer or clients. Any postings on legal issues are provided as a public service, and do not constitute solicitation or provision of legal advice. The author makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained herein or linked to. Nothing herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel.

This web site is presented for informational purposes only. These materials do not constitute legal advice and do not create a solicitor-client relationship between you and David T.S. Fraser. If you are seeking specific advice related to Canadian privacy law or PIPEDA, contact the author, David T.S. Fraser.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Article: Hey kid - you wanna buy a ...  

The Christian Science Monitor has published an article on issues related to the privacy of children's information, particularly information that is compliled for marketing purposes. The United States already has legislation that deals with the privacy of kids' information online (the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act), but there is -- at present -- no regulation of offline collection and marketing. This will change if a legislative initiative by Senators Wyden and Stevens is passed by congress (see

Hey kid - you wanna buy a ... |
"With Gary Ruskin at its helm, Commercial Alert has gained recent attention on Capitol Hill for its "Parents' Bill of Rights."

The document includes nine provisions to help parents combat commercial influences, one of which calls for banning advertising aimed at children under 12 and two of which have already been introduced in the US Senate.

The first bill under consideration requires fast-food chains to disclose basic nutritional information, and the other, introduced last month by Sens. Ron Wyden (D of Oregon) and Ted Stevens (R of Alaska), would ban list brokers without parental permission from collecting data about children 16 and under - everything from ethnicity and family income to hobbies - and selling it to advertisers and marketers.

This practice extends even to the diaper set, which is especially alarming to parents. But no matter what the child's age, parents consider these lists an invasion of privacy.

"Parents are flabbergasted and angry when they learn that their child's information could be sold on the Internet," says Chris Fitzgerald, press secretary for Senator Wyden.

"These list brokers work by stealth," says Mr. Ruskin. "No one even knows this is happening. Children are naturally more trusting than adults, and that trust is often easy to exploit."

Repeated calls to two of the best-known list brokers, American Student List and Student Marketing Group, were not returned. But Doug Wood, general counsel to both the Association of National Advertisers and the Advertising Research Foundation, spoke up in list brokers' favor. Banning them, he says, would be discriminatory and a violation of the First Amendment.

He doesn't even favor an "opt out" feature similar to the Do Not Call Registry for telemarketers."There would be a huge rush of parents who sign up out of ignorance," Mr. Wood explains. "Some of the things they sell to kids are valuable. The fact that we are a nation of sellers is not necessarily a bad thing."

But Wood, who has three children, does concede that list brokers might want to tweak their approach: "They could do themselves a favor by being more open," he says.

The Children's Listbroker Privacy Act will be heard sometime before October, says Courtney Schikora, press secretary for Senator Stevens. That may not be soon enough for some activists, but most are encouraged that politicians are listening.

See also coverage in Wired.

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