Why it is Important to Modernize Privacy Laws for a Digital Society


By Deborah Evans, Chief Privacy Officer, Rogers Communications

It’s taken three decades for the world wide web to evolve from a way for government researchers and scientists to share information to fundamentally changing our way of life. During that time, the pace of innovation has been blistering and shows no sign of slowing.

With the arrival of 5G, ultra-fast fibre networks, and the Internet of Things (IoT), digital connectivity is ushering in another period of profound change. Everything will be connected and the amount of data we generate will continue to grow exponentially in volume and value.

While this presents significant opportunities, it also creates challenges, not least how consumers manage their private information and how businesses protect that data entrusted to them by their customers.

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Modernizing privacy laws for a digital society

As digitalisation continues to transform our lives, policymakers have a critical role to play in modernizing Canada’s privacy laws, so they are effective in a digital and data driven society.

While the current laws are intended to consider technology advancements, they often pre-date the emergence of digital technologies. Given this reality, we need privacy laws, particularly the federal private sector legislation (the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act or PIPEDA) to be updated.

We also need these laws to be harmonised across the country. It is important to ensure there is not a patchwork of rules and obligations across the country that make it inconvenient and costly for businesses and people living and working in Canada. Various provinces are already moving forward with reform.

While new legislation in Quebec has already received Royal Assent, other provinces such as British Columbia and Ontario, for example, are closer to the start of their reform journeys. It is important for the federal government to keep pace and make updating PIPEDA a priority. Equally important is that the provincial and federal efforts align.

The previous government’s Bill C-11 aimed to introduce new obligations for organizations through both the Consumer Privacy Protection Act (CPPA) and the Personal Information and Data Protection Tribunal Act. This is a strong starting point for introducing a new Bill.

The CPPA included a stronger enforcement regime, giving the federal Privacy Commissioner more powers including order making and the ability to make recommendations to the Tribunal for monetary penalties. It also gave citizens new privacy rights and placed new obligations on businesses. Though it needed a few amendments, Bill C-11 offered a balanced approach.

Prioritizing Privacy Reform

We are hopeful that privacy reform is quickly back on the agenda for the new Federal Government and that provincial privacy laws align closely with the federal direction. Harmonization among federal and provincial laws benefits both businesses and individuals and is a key ingredient to improving Canadian competitiveness in the digital age.