'Kids, Cops and Computers' program put Toronto students' personal info at risk, says complaint


Full names, birth dates, intimate details, family photos and videos — they're the sort of things a privacy expert would caution anyone against publishing online, let alone a 13 year old.

But that's the sort of sensitive personal information that some Grade 7 students were encouraged to post as part of a program in collaboration with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), according to a formal anonymous complaint obtained by CBC News.

"The identities of the TDSB's poorest, vulnerable and at-risk students were now made available to every sexual predator and human trafficker in the globe," says the complaint.

In exchange for putting the information online, students from Canada's largest school board who were selected received brand new computers, something many of them would otherwise likely not have access to, the document says. 

The program that provided the computers, Kids, Cops and Computers — later rebranded as ComKids — is run by the Merry Go Round Children's Foundation in partnership with the TDSB and Toronto police.

Over the years, it has expanded to other boards, including the Toronto Catholic District School Board, Niagara and Hamilton-Wentworth school boards, as well as in various other provinces around the country.

Launched in 1998, the program claims it has provided approximately 7,000 laptops and tablets to participants, and that 59 per cent of the students it helps live below the poverty line.

Children's faces 'forever indexed'

But the 85-page complaint addressed to the TDSB alleges that to receive the laptops, children aged 12 and 13 attending at least 14 schools were required to write publicly accessible blogs — many of which are still online.

As part of their assignments, students had to create posts a minimum of 100 words long about a range of topics, including who they are, photos showing their interests, weekend activities and future goals, the report says.

Their final session was on cyber safety, where students were taught not to post personal information on publicly available sites, the complaint adds.