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

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. (File photo)
Surrey mayor taking it on the chin during budget public hearing

So far, he’s cut five callers off during Monday’s virtual meeting

A criminal trial for Robert Boule (inset), the owner of the Smuggler’s Inn, is to begin in August 2021, following a failed application to strike down immigration-act provisions that he is charged under. (Photo courtesy of The Northern Light newspaper)
Blaine inn owner’s challenge of immigration act fails

Robert Boule’s trial on human-smuggling charges set to begin August 2021

Surrey Little Theatre is located on 184th Street at Fraser Highway. (File photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey Little Theatre, Langley Players look to merge as single company at 200th Street theatre

A ‘really exciting’ development for the volunteer-run theatre companies

The entrance at Fleetwood Villa in Surrey. (Photo: dignified.ca)
Fleetwood Villa resident tests positive for COVID-19, leading to ‘outbreak’ at facility

Fraser Health says it’s ‘critically important’ for people in the region to use COVID-19 assessment tool

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Ash and Lisa Van carry a freshly cut Christmas tree while wearing personal protective masks at a Christmas Tree Farm in Egbert, Ontario, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Cole Burston
‘Everyone wants a tree and they want it now’: Christmas tree sales on pace for record

Anticipated demand for Christmas trees has sparked a rush by some to purchase more trees wholesale

Business groups have been advocating for years that local approvals for construction in B.C. are too long and restricted, and that B.C.’s outdates sales tax deter business investment. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents worried about COVID-19 deficit, business survey finds

Respondents support faster local approvals, value added tax

The first of two earthquakes near Alaska on the morning of Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, is shown in blue. (USGS)
No tsunami risk after two earthquakes near Alaska

Both earthquakes hit near the U.S. state on Dec. 1

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

Paramedics register patients at a drive through, pop-up COVID-19 test centre outside the Canadian Tire Centre, home of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, in Ottawa, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians aren’t currently worried that people in other countries might get a COVID-19 vaccine first. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Canadians not worried other countries will get COVID-19 vaccine first: poll

Forty-one per cent of respondents say they want the vaccine to be mandatory for all Canadians

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
32 family members respond to Abbotsford care home’s plea for staffing help during COVID-19 outbreak

Menno Home asks for relief workers for food service, laundry and housekeeping

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Most Read