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

A woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 uses walking sticks while walking up a hill, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Interior Health reports 83 more COVID-19 infections overnight

46 cases are now associated with a COVID-19 community cluster in Revelstoke

A man wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Vancouver on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
212 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

A total of 490 cases remain active; 15 in hospital

Corey Harkness, who is free on bail, is slated to make his first appearance in B.C. Supreme Court in Kamloops on Dec. 14, 2020. A trial date has not yet been set. (COREY HARKNESS/FACEBOOK)
Accused in Cache Creek homicide will stand trial

Corey Harkness, 33, is charged with second-degree murder

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 65 new cases of COVID-19

Province-wide, there are 887 new cases of the virus

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

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

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await privacy commissioner decision on COVID-19 information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is B.C.’s new minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

Peter Beckett. ~ File photo
Supreme Court of Canada to decide if it will hear appeal in 2010 wife murder trial

Peter Beckett has stood trial twice for murder in connection with the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
B.C.’s largest COVID-19 care-home outbreak records 19 deaths, 147 cases

Tabor Home in Abbotsford has been battling outbreak since Nov. 4

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

Most Read