Google used sensitive information about individuals’ online activities to target them with health-related advertisements, contrary to Canadian privacy law, says the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
Photo Credit: Google Canada

Google health ads violate Canada’s privacy laws

Google’s on-line advertising service has violated Canada’s privacy laws according to an investigation by the Office of Canada’s Privacy Commissioner.

In a press release on Wednesday (January 15) Interim Privacy Commissioner Chantal Bernier says Google has agreed to take steps to stop the “privacy-intrusive ads”.

“We are pleased Google is acting to address this problem. Most Canadians consider health information to be extremely sensitive. It is inappropriate for this type of information to be used in online behavioural advertising,” said Bernier.

The investigation was prompted by a complaint from a man with sleep apnea, a condition which affects breathing during sleep.

After searching online for medical devices to treat sleep apnea, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner reported the man “was shocked to be suddenly ‘followed’ by advertisements for such devices as he visited websites completely unrelated to the sleep disorder”.

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada is mandated by Parliament to act as an ombudsman and guardian of privacy in Canada.

More information:
Privacy Commissioner press release – Google ads sparked by web surfing on health sites violate privacy rights, investigation finds – here
Privacy Commissioner of Canada – Guidelines: Privacy and Online Behavioural Advertising – here

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