Thoughts about media in Canada

Online tracking and privacy

Canada’s privacy commissioner; Jennifer Stoddart, is in favour of opt-out when it comes to tracking of online advertising. This is a good sign of a maturing market where industry, government and the public can meet to ensure all stakeholders interests are recognized.

Consumers can easily opt out from one of the main ad servers here and from a consortium of networks here. In addition to those options, industry has developed other more advanced ways to create transparency and ease for consumers such as suppliers like Evidon.

Cookie, tracking and privacy all sound like ominous terms but we have to remember that cookies do not represent people nor do the ones used by marketers carry personal information. Our world is awash in all sorts of data. This data helps business, it helps formulate policy and helps govern the country. 6 digit Postal Codes were adopted Canada wide about 40 years ago and have been immensely helpful not only for the post office but also marketers and the government. Interested to know what postal codes say about you? Check it out here. Enter your postal code and you will see your little patch of Canada segmented into groups that explain to marketers, sociologists, policy makers, home builders, electioneers etc who lives in this postal code. Remember postal codes are not that big in terms of population, there are over 850,000 of them for all Canada. The point is that postal codes are an excellent balance between data and privacy. There is no personal data in a postal code however there is enough data to make a postal code actionable for all different types of people to use. In many ways the use of online cookies to build profiles is just like postal codes, personal data is private and yet there is enough information to make it actionable for marketers. In the same way you receive offers through mail based on postal codes, online users get ads based on data. Keep in mind that no Canadian is allowed to opt out of the postal code system and it is also against the law not to participate in the census which is where all the data about who lives in what postal code is coming from. On the other hand it is super easy to use online without cookies being set; modern browsers have a safety menu where you can have “private browsing”. No cookies are set or read at all. Go have fun.

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