Privacy and the Internet

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Your privacy refers to your personal or intimate life. It includes information that can identify who you are.

This information belongs to you, and you have a say in what happens to it. In other words, you decide what information you want other people to have and for what purpose.

Here are some examples of private information:

  • your age
  • your physical features (weight, height, fingerprints, etc.)
  • the people around you (for example, your family or friends)
  • where you live
  • your favourite activities and life habits
  • whether you are in a relationship
  • your state of health
  • your sex life and sexual orientation
  • your image (photos or videos)
  • private telephone conversations
  • your voice
  • your personal documents, such as your passport and social insurance card

Even if your friends and family know most of this information, it is up to you whether to share it with others, for example on the Internet or social networks.  


Protecting Your Privacy at Home, at School and on the Internet

Protecting your privacy can be different at home, school and on the Internet.

So, if you write in a journal at home, there is little chance that anyone else will read it. But if you post your journal on the Internet, everyone will be able to see it.


Protecting Your Privacy on the Internet

The Internet, social networks and online video games allow all sorts of information to be shared quickly and easily. This is "cyberspace," and lots of people have access to it.

It is up to you whether to share information about yourself over the Internet. Here are a few things to keep in mind before posting personal information:

1. Your Information Is Important

Information such as your mother's name, the town you were born in and your date of birth might not seem important to you, and you might see nothing wrong with mentioning these things in your user profile.

But did you know that a dishonest person could misuse this information? For example, this information could allow someone to figure out your passwords and get into your online accounts. This information is also important to companies that want to know about your habits and interests so they can send you personalized advertising. 

2. Whatever You Post Can Last Forever

Often, it only takes a click to post a picture or information on the Internet. Posting is easy, but it is almost impossible to reverse the process. This is why you should only post information that you are comfortable with everybody seeing (such as your parents, your teacher or a future employer).

3. Your Friends' Privacy

In the virtual world, protection of privacy is more difficult if you often post personal information. You should also be careful about your friends' personal information. This personal information belongs to them.


Insist on Respect for Your Privacy

If someone is talking about you on the Internet without your permission or reveals information that you want to keep to yourself, this person is not respecting your privacy. It could be embarrassing to you or ruin your reputation.

You have a right to control how others use some of your personal information by limiting public access to it. You must give them permission to use it.

You can ask the person who posted the information, picture or video to remove it. If the person refuses, you can contact the site involved (for example, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.) and ask that it be removed. You should do this as soon as possible, especially if the picture or video is sexual.  You can get help to do this.

Lastly, you can also ask a judge to order this person to remove the information and possibly even pay you money to make up for the harm.


Did you know?

The right to privacy is a fundamental right, but there are some exceptions. For example, personal information can be shared in cases like these:

  • You are in the public eye because of the type of work you do (e.g., actor, politician, professional athlete).
  • You decided to post your personal information on the Internet.
  • The law requires you to provide information that can identify you. For example, you were pulled over for speeding and the police ask for your name and address.
  • The publication of your personal information is of "public interest." This has to do with informing the public of a particular situation. The public's right to information can take priority over your right to privacy.  For example, imagine that a reporter is covering a public event you are attending, such as a show or festival. The reporter is allowed to take pictures of you to tell a news story about the event.

Important !
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.