Youth don't protect themselves online

Jessica Hume, Parliamentary Bureau
Computer keyboard with the pirate's symobl on the Enter key (Shutterstock)

Computer keyboard with the pirate's symobl on the Enter key (Shutterstock)

Tech-savvy youth may think they understand privacy issues, but Canada's privacy watchdog says many teens don't know how to protect themselves online.

"While the young show agility in using any new kind of digital communication and recognize the importance of protecting their privacy, they are also often unsuspecting about the potential privacy intrusions that can accompany novel technologies," Canada's privacy commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, said in her annual report.

Young Internet users tend to falsely believe their online space is private, that their activity is visible only to their friends and that once an item is deleted, it is wiped away forever. In reality, online communications are permanent, and many companies are trying to capture users' profiles and keystrokes to commercialize personal information and deliver individually tailored ads, the report said.

"While a lot of effort is going into exploiting the personal information of children and youth for profit, far fewer resources are being expended in helping children and youth recognize the value of privacy protection," the report said.

To address the issue, the commission on Tuesday launched a graphic novel called Social Smarts. In it, a brother and sister arrive at a new school only to find their classmates know all about them from information they've posted on Facebook.

"The novel talks about security information, being careless, saying things that will come back to haunt you," Stoddart said. "We hope it will help young people understand the risks to privacy when it comes to social networking, gaming and texting."