Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains during a news conference Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020 in Ottawa. Federal privacy legislation introduced today would require companies to get consent from customers through plain language, not a lengthy legal document, before using their personal data. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains during a news conference Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020 in Ottawa. Federal privacy legislation introduced today would require companies to get consent from customers through plain language, not a lengthy legal document, before using their personal data. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

New privacy bill promises greater control for consumers, stiff fines for companies

Legislation would provide for administrative monetary penalties of up to three per cent of global revenue

The Trudeau government is proposing new privacy measures to give people more control over their information in the digital age, with potentially stiff fines for companies that flout the rules.

The legislation tabled in the House of Commons on Tuesday is designed to flesh out the 10 principles of the federal digital charter and bring Canada’s much-maligned privacy regime for businesses into the modern era.

Advocacy groups and business organizations generally applauded the bill, but there were concerns about how comprehensive the practical effects will be.

Under the legislation, companies would have to obtain consent from customers through plain language, not a long legal document, before using their personal data.

The government says the bill, the Digital Charter Implementation Act, would also give consumers the ability to more easily transfer their data from one business to another. For example, people could direct their bank to share their personal information with another financial institution.

The bill would arm the federal privacy commissioner with order-making powers, including the ability to demand that a company stop collecting data or using personal information.

In addition, the commissioner would be able to recommend that the planned Personal Information and Data Protection Tribunal impose a fine.

The legislation would provide for administrative monetary penalties of up to three per cent of global revenue or $10 million, whichever is higher, for non-compliant organizations.

It also contains harsher penalties for certain serious infractions, including a maximum fine of five per cent of global revenue, or $25 million, bringing Canada into line with Europe.

“The fines are there to provide accountability,” said Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains.

“If we want Canadians to feel confident online … they need to make sure that their privacy is protected, and that they have greater control over their data.”

The government says the law would also ensure Canadians could demand their information on social-media platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter, be permanently deleted.

To reinforce this, the privacy commissioner would have the ability to order a social-media company to comply.

The legislation would also give the privacy commissioner powers to audit organizations, an enforcement tool that Daniel Therrien, the current commissioner, has repeatedly advocated.

The bill is a “big win for privacy in Canada,” said Laura Tribe, executive director of OpenMedia, which has long pushed for stronger laws.

“For years, people have been calling on the government to increase protections for our digital privacy, to no avail,” she said.

“As a result, protecting the data and privacy of Canadians has been an afterthought for many companies, knowing that there were no meaningful penalties or consequences for bad behaviour.”

The group noted the legislation says consent is not required when an organization lacks a direct relationship with a person, which could water down the protections.

The bill is a step in the right direction, said Jim Balsillie, founder of the Centre for Digital Rights. “However, what seems to be missing is a clear recognition of privacy as a fundamental human right.”

Goldy Hyder, president of the Business Council of Canada, said the legislative proposals set out clear rules to protect consumers, promote innovation and strengthen Canadians’ confidence in the emerging digital economy.

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority, which manages .ca domains, welcomed the bill by saying trust is critical to the digital economy and central to a well-functioning internet. “Canadians must be able to trust that their personal data will be protected and not abused.”

The legislation would also:

— Require businesses to to be transparent about how they use automated decision-making systems like algorithms and artificial intelligence to make significant predictions, recommendations or decisions about people;

— Clarify that depersonalized information, for instance through removal of a name, must be protected and that it can be used without a person’s consent only under certain circumstances;

— Allow businesses to disclose de-identified data to public organizations in some cases for socially beneficial purposes, such as health or environmental initiatives.

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

privacy

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
Castlegar sees spike in crime over winter

Local RCMP report increase in calls

Kirk Duff is running for mayor in the upcoming Castlegar byelection Photo: Submitted
Third candidate enters Castlegar mayor’s race

Kirk Duff previously served 18 years as a city councillor

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
43 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

368 cases in the region remain active

The Kaslo Outdoor Recreation and Trail Society will build a trail on Mount Buchanan, seen here with society secretary Stuart Heard, with support from Columbia Basin Trust. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay trails receive Columbia Basin Trust funding

Several locations in the West Kootenay are undergoing upgrades

A member of the Avalanche Canada South Rockies field team gathers important snowpack data that is used to produce daily avalanche forecasts for the region. Photo by Jennifer Coulter.
Warming temperatures increase avalanche risk heading into the weekend

Warm temperatures impact conditions, human behaviour

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)
B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Pxhere)
B.C. research reveals how pandemic has changed attitudes towards sex, health services

CDC survey shows that 35 per cent of people were worried about being judged

Some Canadians are finding butter harder than usual, resulting in an avalanche of social media controversy around #buttergate. (Brett Williams/The Observer)
#Buttergate: Concerns around hard butter hit small B.C. towns and beyond

Canadians find their butter was getting harder, blame palm oil in part one of this series

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon speaks in the B.C. legislature, describing work underway to make a small business and tourism aid package less restrictive, Dec. 10, 2020. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends deadline for tourism, small business COVID-19 grants

Business owners expect months more of lost revenues

The Black Diamond / PIEPS Avalanche transceivers being recalled. (Image courtesy of PIEPS)
Black Diamond, PIEPS issue recall for avalanche transceivers

PIEPS said that avalanche incidents in 2017 and 2020 had prompted the recall, but defended the product

Anti-pipeline protests continue in Greater Vancouver, with the latest happening Thursday, March 4 at a Trans Mountain construction site in Burnaby. (Facebook/Laurel Dykstra)
A dozen faith-based protestors blockade Burnaby Trans Mountain site in prayer

The group arrived early Thursday, planning to ‘block any further work’

Most Read