Strengthening Safeguards for Children’s Personal Information

Strengthening Safeguards for Children’s Personal Information

Province proposing legislation to better protect children’s privacy and data in provincial settings

 The Ontario government intends to introduce legislation that would prohibit the misuse of data created by children and youth engaging with schools and children’s aid societies.

The regulatory changes would enable the creation of protections to better safeguard children’s information from being stolen or used inappropriately due to cyber incidents. Future regulations could include age-appropriate standards for software programs on devices, like laptops, used by students at school and strengthened standards for software procurement by schools to avoid the usage or selling of student data for predatory marketing by third parties.

“The evolving online world provides many opportunities for children’s education and growth but there are risks to their privacy and the collection and use of their personal information,” said Todd McCarthy, Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery. “Our government wants our children to have a healthy, safe and age-appropriate digital experience when engaging with public sector organizations like schools which is why we are safeguarding their best interests by putting guardrails in place to better protect them.”

Studies indicate children are accessing the internet at a younger age than ever before and that the majority of programs for very young children collect their digital identifiers and share them with third party marketing companies. Experts agree that children are at greater risk of harms posed by digital platforms, and recent years have seen increasing instances of privacy violations, cyber-bullying and other data-related harms.

The Ontario government will collaborate with school boards, parents and groups overseeing children in provincial settings to ensure the right protections are introduced without affecting the quality of education or interfering with schools’ ability to choose the right tools for the classroom.

The province will also consult with social media and tech industry experts, along with law enforcement, on ways to further crack down on cybercrimes and cyberbullying, trafficking and online victimization of children, as well as safeguards on access to age-appropriate web material and workarounds on software exploits in schools. Work is also underway to continue bolstering guardrails and safeguards to ensure artificial intelligence is used responsibly in the public sector, including schools.

“After removing social media from school networks and devices, restricting cell phones in class and banning vaping, our government is taking additional action to further safeguard our children while they are online,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “We will be bringing in social media and tech industry experts to discuss how they can further curtail risks, specifically focused on cyberbullying, age-appropriate access to content, and cracking down on risks to kids while online. This is about protecting the physical and mental health of children.”

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