New privacy challenges demand stronger protections for Canadians
TORONTO, May 23, 2013
Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart issues position paper on
modernizing Canada's private sector privacy law to include stronger
enforcement powers, mandatory data breach reporting provisions, and
increased accountability and transparency measures
TORONTO, May 23, 2013 /CNW/ - Canada needs a more modern privacy law -
including stronger enforcement powers - to better protect the rights of
Canadians in the digital age, says the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart today released a position paper which offers a roadmap for modernizing Canada's federal private-sector
privacy law so that it more effectively tackles current and future
"Personal information has been called the oil of the digital economy.
As organizations find new ways to profit from personal information, the
risks to privacy are growing exponentially," says Commissioner
"It is increasingly clear that the law is not up to the task of meeting
the challenges of today - and certainly not those of tomorrow."
The Commissioner launched her Office's new paper, called The Case for
Reforming the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), at the International Association of Privacy Professionals' 2013 Canada Privacy Symposium.
Commissioner Stoddart, who delivered a keynote address to the
conference, described the dramatically different privacy landscape that
existed when PIPEDA began coming into force back in 2001.
"There was no Facebook, no Twitter and no Google Street View. Phones
weren't smart. 'The cloud' was something that threatened picnic plans,"
says Commissioner Stoddart.
"The world has changed and while my Office has had some successes in
prompting companies to improve their privacy practices, improvement
often comes after the fact and after our Office has invested
significant resources. Too often, privacy is an afterthought," she
"The purpose of our privacy law - to balance privacy and legitimate
business needs - is no longer being met. The legislation lacks
mechanisms strong enough to ensure organizations invest appropriately
in privacy. As a result, consumer trust in the digital economy is at
The recommendations outlined in the new paper include:
Stronger enforcement powers: Options include statutory damages to be administered by the Federal
Court; providing the Privacy Commissioner with order-making powers
and/or the power to impose administrative monetary penalties where
Breach notification: Require organizations to report breaches of personal information to the
Privacy Commissioner and to notify affected individuals, where
warranted. Penalties should be applied in certain cases. A recent poll found that virtually all Canadians - 97 percent - would want to be
notified of a breach involving their personal information.
Increase transparency: Add public reporting requirements to shed light on the use of an
extraordinary exception under PIPEDA which allows law enforcement
agencies and government institutions to obtain personal information
from companies without consent or a judicial warrant for a wide range
of purposes, including national security; the enforcement of any laws
of Canada, provinces or foreign countries; or investigations or
intelligence-gathering related to the enforcement of these laws.
Promote accountability: Amend PIPEDA to explicitly introduce "enforceable agreements" to help
ensure that organizations meet their commitments to improve their
privacy practices following an investigation or audit.
"We live in a global world. Canada needs to ensure its privacy
legislation evolves to keep up with laws in other countries with
stronger enforcement powers," says Commissioner Stoddart. "Canada
cannot afford to be left behind other jurisdictions, with little in the
way of consequences for those that do not respect our privacy law."
The Privacy Commissioner of Canada is mandated by Parliament to act as
an ombudsman and guardian of privacy in Canada. The Commissioner
enforces two federal laws for the protection of personal information:
the Privacy Act, which applies to the federal public sector; and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which applies to commercial activities in the Atlantic
provinces, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Territories. Quebec,
Alberta and British Columbia each has its own law covering the private
sector. Even in these provinces, PIPEDA continues to apply to the
federally regulated private sector and to personal information in
interprovincial and international transactions.
SOURCE: Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada