A newly introduced bill set to increase privacy protections for Canadians includes measures that could see companies that don’t comply face fines from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
Minister Navdeep Bains introduced the bill, entitled the Consumer Privacy Protection Act, on Tuesday. The bill is meant to modernize the Canadian government’s framework for the protection of personal information, specifically in the private sector. It includes proposals for stronger protections of individual Canadians’ privacy and increased control over data and personal information.
The bill, if passed, would require companies to be more transparent about the collection and use of individuals’ data. The Consumer Privacy Protection Act would provide the Privacy Commissioner with “broad order-making powers,” which includes the ability to force organizations to comply with the privacy law. Along with the power to set fines, the commissioner would also provide recommendations to a new data protection tribunal.
For companies that don’t comply with the updated privacy laws, the commissioner will have the power to impose fines of up to five percent of global revenues or $25 million. In a press conference on Tuesday, Bains noted that the fines are the strongest among G7 privacy laws.
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Bains emphasized that the updates to PIPEDA laws and legislation that the newly introduced act would provide is about giving Canadians with greater control, transparency, and input into how their data is used. He argued, however, that the law would also provide businesses with more predictability and the ability to pursue innovation.
In response to the bill, executive director of the Council of Canadian Innovators, Benjamin Bergen, argued in a statement to BetaKit that the Canadian government is “playing catch-up” to the European Union, California and Quebec, which have all taken steps in recent years to advance data protection laws.
“Privacy protections and industry growth are not at odds, and clearer rules will give Canadian businesses confidence as they plan and grow,” said Bergen.
“However, the details of implementation will be important, and we expect government to work with technology companies to understand their compliance obligations and new standards established with this legislation,” he added. “Moreover, with global standards changing constantly, it is important for the federal government to work closely with data-driven companies headquartered in Canada to make sure that we are leaders when it comes to setting regulations for protect fundamental personal privacy rights.”
While the bill document has yet to be made public, key highlights are set to include: increased control and transparency when Canadians’ personal information is handled by companies; giving Canadians the ability to move data from one organization to another securely; and the ability to demand that their information be destroyed.
The Privacy Commissioner would also be allotted the ability to order a company to stop collecting data or using personal information that is done so outside the privacy regulations.
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The Consumer Privacy Protection Act, or the Digital Charter Implementation Act as it is also being called, follows the Digital Charter that Bains unveiled in May of last year. The changes to privacy law that Bains has introduced hit on numerous charter principles, including safety and security, control and consent, as well as transparency, portability, and interoperability.
The proposed act is being touted as an “initial step” toward a more comprehensive reform of Canada’s privacy framework. The federal government is also proposing to modernize the Privacy Act, which applies to the federal public sector, also overseen by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation which is changing how Canadians work, access information, access services, and connect with their loved ones,” said Bains. “As Canadians increasingly rely on technology we need a system where they know how their data is used and where they have control over how it is handled. For Canada to succeed, and for our companies to be able to innovate in this new reality, we need a system founded on trust with clear rules and enforcement. This legislation represents an important step towards achieving this goal.”