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Summary: Privacy Laws in Canada

Privacy in Canada is primarily regulated through two federal laws, the Privacy Act—regulating government and public sector institutions—and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)—regulating certain private sector, profit and not-for-profit organizations. The Privacy Act (1983) puts restrictions upon “the collection, use and disclosure of personal information” (Office of the Privacy Commissioner Of Canada). This law also gives individuals the right to access and to correct any information collected about them. Similar rights are enforced upon the private sector through PIPEDA (2000) including the right of consumers to know why specific personal information is required. For the sake of both of these bills personal information is defined as “personal information” means information about an identifiable individual, but does not include the name, title or business address or telephone number of an employee of an organization” (PIPEDA) Interestingly, PIPEDA is superseded by provincial laws which are “substantially similar to the federal law” ( Office of the Privacy Commissioner Of Canada). For example, British Columbia’s and Quebec’s private industry are largely governed by provincial laws, while in Ontario only the health care industry is provincially regulated. None of these privacy laws are targeted at online privacy specifically. Rather they are meant to be broad sweeping regulations to ensure that Canadian’s private information will not be abused. Nevertheless, these privacy laws apply to the protection of personal information online as well.

In general, online activities have presented difficulties for these current laws; therefore, there have been several attempts by law makers to pass bills to allow law officials better access to online activities. However, as most of these bill seem to not respect the privacy of individual internet users, there has been much public backlash against them and none have been enacted into law. The latest attempt to revisit online privacy was Bill C-30, Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act (February 14, 2012). This bill (originally titled the Lawful Access Act) would have “require[d] Internet service providers and cellphone companies to hand over basic customer information — including name, address, phone number, email address, and ISP addresses — to authorities when requested, without the need for a warrant” (Postmedia) as well as require ISPs to install software capable of real-time tracking to aid law enforcement. This Bill introduced in February of 2012, became the centre of much public outcry, and was eventually shelved, but it is indicative of the struggle between law professionals, law makers and the interests of the individual’s right to private use of the internet.

Works Cited

Fraser, David T.S. Canadian Privacy Law Blog. Web. 25 Jan 2013. (link to article)

Government of Canada. “Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.” S.C. 2000, c. 5. 13 Apr 2000.Web. 25 Jan 2013. (link to article)

Government of Canada. “Privacy Act.” R.S.C., 1985, c. P-21. 1985. Web. 25 Jan 2013. (link to article)

Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. “Fact Sheet: Privacy Legislation in Canada.” Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. 5 Dec 2008. Web. 27 Jan 2013. (link to article)

Postmedia News. “Vic Toews unveils Bill-C30 Protecting Children from Predators Act.” National Post. Web. 26 Jan 2013. (link to article)


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