Do Feds watch every click you make?

The federal government is restricting how closely it watches Canadians online.

New rules are now in place governing the use of data that's gathered when Canadians visit government websites, the first comprehensive guidelines since Ottawa went online nearly 20 years ago.

But the rules don't cover the data available to the government via social media sites that are set up by individual departments, which operate beyond the bounds of federal policy.

Among other things, the new rules for tracking visits to government websites prohibit the government from profiling an individual's online activity by tracking their computer's Internet protocol address.

Any use of the IP address to measure website traffic must also make sure the address is rendered anonymous.

"Canadians live in a world of data. Many individuals do not realize how much information about them is collected by websites and used as a corporate asset," said the privacy assessment carried out by Treasury Board in advance of the new guidelines.

The new policies came into effect at the end of January, through departments have until 2014 to ensure that the contracts they have with third-party groups to analyze government web traffic also comply with the guidelines.

The government is also looking into ways to do the analysis itself, rather than relying on third-party companies like Google.

Regulating what the private and public sector can do with the amount of data generated online has become a key issue in the field of online privacy.

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