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Privacy chief Stoddart urges 'meaningful consent' on online tracking

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Privacy commissioner wants consent on tracking Canada's privacy commissioner called today for "meaningful consent" involving groups that track online activities.

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In releasing a new report, Jennifer Stoddart said organizations tracking online use have to more more upfront about what they're doing.

"It comes down to meaningful consent, which entails informed consent," Ms. Stoddart said in a statement accompanying the report on online tracking.

"Most people have no idea about the rich trail of data they leave behind when they browse the internet, use social networking sites, or engage the geo-location functions of their mobile devices."

In the report, which involved consultations on the subject, Ms. Stoddart's agency found that both consumers and businesses are moving in increasing numbers to online activities, and they should be able to have "the many benefits of the digital age," but not at the expense of privacy rights.

The report urges stronger safeguards, saying personally information should be gathered only for appropriate reasons, with consent, and its use should be restricted to the reason it was collected in the first place.

The information gathered is "a gold mine for advertisers and other businesses," her agency said.

"They can use it to build detailed profiles of their customers, infer their tastes and preferences, and then attempt to entice them with tailored online ads."

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Jobless rate dips Full-time employment in Canada is, for the first time, back at the levels of October 2008, where they peaked before the recession began killing jobs.

Canada's economy churned out 58,300 jobs in April, The Globe and Mail's Tavia Grant reports today, and the unemployment rate dipped, though to a still high 7.6 per cent. Hiring related to the election may have played a role.

Still, April's showing is a milestone of sorts. Canada had already regained all the jobs lost to the recession, but full-time work has now climbed back as well.

"With April's slight gain, full-time employment has returned to the level of October 2008 for the first time," Statistics Canada said. "The total number of hours worked, however, remained 0.6 per cent below its October 2008 level."

Part-time work still registered a hefty rise in April, climbing by 41,000, but full-time jobs also edged up.

"Over the past 12 months, full-time employment grew by 1.9 per cent compared with 0.8 per cent in part-time," the federal agency said.

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The overall showing from today's report is "is one of an economy moving gradually back to full employment," said Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC World Markets.

"The private sector stepped up to account for the majority of the new jobs," said Mr. Shenfeld, who added that he expects the Bank of Canada to begin hiking interest rates again in July.

"The election may have helped boost public sector work, but the private sector gain was still impressive enough on its own," he said.

What report shows on inflation While the jobs report shows the labour market regaining its strength, it also indicates that inflationary pressures from wages remain tame. Coupled with the slide in commodities prices, it raises the comfort level of the Bank of Canada.

Wages for permanent employees rose 2.4 per cent in April from a year earlier, the Statistics Canada report showed, slipping from a 2.6-per-cent pace in March. Wages for all employees rose 2.5 per cent, also slower than the rate of 2.7 per cent a month earlier, Scotia Capital noted.

"The strong headline gain generally stands up to scrutiny, but what matters far more to the [Bank of Canada]is that inflationary pressures have subsided on two counts," said economists Karen Cordes Woods and Derek Holt.

"... Wage growth had been front-loaded at the start of the year and has since dissipated, but it was also being influenced by soft base effects of a year ago," they added.

"Real wage gains remain very flat in Canada, which is hardly bullish for consumption, and this continues to mean that transmission mechanisms into broader inflation stemming from a commodity price shock that itself is dissipating will likely be contained."

U.S. creates jobs The United States also came in today with a better-than-expected showing on job creation, though the unemployment rate climbed to 9 per cent in April from 8.8 per cent.

Some 244,000 jobs were created in April, while economists had projected about 185,000.

Notable in the U.S. report is that the private sector accounted for job gains of 268,000, the best showing since early 2006.

"The April job gain is up from the [first-quarter]average of 175,000 and [fourth-quarter]mean of 139,000, suggesting a strengthening trend," said BMO Nesbitt Burns economist Sal Guatieri. " ... The U.S. labour market continues to strengthen, greatly allaying recent concerns about a slowing economic recovery."

China fines Unilever Authorities in China, where officials have boosted interest rates and bank reserve requirements to cool things down, really are serious about inflation.

Today, the government announced it fined Unilever for talking about plans to hike prices on detergent, which sparked a rush for some of its products last month.

The government said it fined the consumer products maker the equivalent of more than $300,000 (U.S.), reports from Beijing said.

Companies have been ordered not to talk about prices on items such as noodles and other products, the reports said. Unilever, according to Dow Jones, did not raise prices in the end.

"As a company with a long-term commitment to China, we continue to be sensitive to the local environment," Unilever said in a statement.. "Therefore, we accept the decision of [the National Development and Reform Commission] and Shanghai Price Bureau."

Analyst bumps up Manulife National Bank Financial has raised its rating on Manulife Financial corp. to "outperform" after the insurer's first-quarter results yesterday.

As The Globe and Mail's Tara Perkins reports, Manulife earned $985-million or 53 cents a share, down from $1.2-billion or 66 cents a year earlier but it included a previously disclosed hit of $151-million related to the devastating March earthquake in Japan.

"We believe the risk premium that the market currently applies to Manulife's stock has not adjusted to the company's reduced risk position and improved fundamentals," said National Bank analyst Peter Routledge, whose price target on the shares stands at $19.50.

"We think there is much less down side risk in owning this stock than there was seven months ago, yet the market currently requires a similar risk premium. We think this will correct over the next year."

Strikes in Greece, Portugal It was only yesterday that Greece said it hoped to help conquer its economic woes by boosting tourism. Well, sure, if you can find a doctor.

Doctors and hospital workers staged a short walkout today, clashing with police in Athens as they demonstrated outside health ministry offices in Athens in a protest against the country's austerity measures.

Strikes have been frequent in Greece, and, today, civil servants in Portugal also walked out.

In Personal Finance today

How to play the low interest-rate game

With a rate hike likely on the way, buyers should think twice before joining the must-buy-now herd, writes Rasha Mourtada.

Rule changes make mortgages a moving target

Ottawa's restrictions have injected uncertainty into the market, as buyers rush to complete deals before deadlines, Tara Perkins reports.

Do you have the 'green light' to retire?

Picking a retirement date can be daunting. Adviser Ted Rechtshaffen offers a few tips to help with your decision.

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