Digital Privacy Act To Reform Canadian Privacy Laws

by Dentons
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On Friday, April 4, 2014, the Hon. James Moore, Canadian Minister of Industry, announced the launch of “Digital Canada 150.”

As part of the Digital Canada 150, the Government of Canada intends to introduce a Digital Privacy Act in Parliament this coming week to reform Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). The Minister’s announcement was short on details. It is expected, however, that the Digital Privacy Act may include some of the following reforms that were previously attempted by the government:

  • Mandatory data breach reporting to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and individual breach notification requirements.
  • Clarification that organizations may disclose personal information when requested by police without verifying the lawful authority of the requester to make the request. (This provision was controversial when previously introduced. A different approach has been taken in Bill C-13, which is also before Parliament. That Bill would amend the Criminal Code to provide criminal and civil immunity to organizations that preserve and disclose data to law enforcement agencies, among others.)
  • An exemption that would allow an organization to disclose (without the consent of the individual and whether or not the individual is competent) personal information to the individuals’ next of kin, an authorized representative or law enforcement if the organization had reasonable grounds to believe the individual may be the victim of financial abuse.
  • Exemption from PIPEDA for the collection, use or disclosure of an individual’s business contact information when used for the purposes of communicating with that individual about their business.
  • Clarification that consent is not required for the collection, use and disclosure of employee work product information.
  • Provisions to facilitate the transfer of personal information without the need for consent when selling or acquiring a business.
  • New investigatory provisions for the Commissioner.

It is not clear whether we might also see new order making powers and administrative monetary penalties for egregious breaches of PIPEDA. Although these tools have been previously requested by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, the government has not acceded to those requests to date.

Privacy law reforms are only one piece of the Digital Canada 150 initiative. A central plank in the Digital Canada 150 strategy is to have high-speed Internet at 5 megabits per second available to 98% of Canadians. The government will inject CAD $300 million to bring that effort to fruition. In addition, the government has announced that it will cap domestic wireless roaming rates. The government will continue to pursue passage of laws relating to cyberbullying and the regulation of virtual currency that have already been introduced into Parliament.

For our international readers, an explanation might be required as to why the government is branding its initiative “Digital Canada 150?. This is a reference to the 150th anniversary of the founding of Canada through Confederation in 1867. The building of a transcontinental rail road is a central theme in the history of nation-building in Canada. Under Confederation in 1867, two of Canada’s Maritime provinces were promised railway links to Ontario and Quebec. When British Columbia (on the far west coast) joined in 1871, there was a condition that the railway be completed across the continent. Evidently, what the rail road was to the history of Canada, the government believes high speed broadband will be to the future.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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