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

Move430 aims to encourage Langley residents to be active while raising funds to help kids play sports (KidSport image)
A virtual get-active challenge to Langley residents

MOVE430 fundraiser by Langley KidSport will help young athletes take up organized sports

Max and Charlie found their forever home through LAPS. (Special to The Star)
Langley Animal Protection Society says goodbye to longtime volunteers

Dog walkers Donna Linke and Pauline Markle have retired after more than 15 years of service

Langley Township council passed a tree protection bylaw in 2019, but one resident says the municipality does not do enough to preserve valuable trees. (Black Press Media)
LETTER: The last straw

An Aldergrove resident mourns the loss of 125-year-old Douglas fir tree

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

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

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’

Mid day at the Vancouver Port Intersection blockade on March 3, organized by the Braided Warriors. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
Anti-pipeline blockade at Vancouver intersection broken up by police

Demonstraters were demanding the release of a fellow anti-TMX protester

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

(Government of B.C.)
Backcountry skiers are dwarfed by the mountains as they make their way along a mountain ridge near McGillivray Pass Lodge located in the southern Chilcotin Mountains of British Columbia, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. Avalanche Canada has issued a special warning to people who use the backcountry in the mountains of western Alberta and eastern British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Avalanche Canada special warning for mountains in western Alberta, eastern B.C.

Avalanche Canada also says everyone in a backcountry party needs essential rescue gear

A recently finished $4.3-million taxiway extension at the Victoria International Airport (not pictured) is unusable because of a blind spot. (Black Press Media file photo)
Blind spot leaves Victoria airport’s new $4.3-million taxiway extension unusable

Solution has been put on hold by COVID-19 pandemic, says airport authority

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Most Read