OTTAWA -- Canada's privacy czar says all businesses -- especially those operating online -- should be upfront about their privacy practices with customers.

In his annual report, federal privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien says websites must explain clearly what personal information is collected, how it is used, whether it is disclosed to third parties and for what purpose.

He says the explanation should be readily seen, clear and useful -- without the need for a law degree to understand it.

There should also be a designated contact to whom customers can pose questions and concerns.

Therrien notes today's consumers can browse infinite brands and boutiques with their fingertips, all without having to leave their homes.

But he adds that somewhere along the way consumers stopped simply being purchasers and became products themselves as companies began to systematically collect and analyze their personal data.