Safeguarding Canadians' Personal Information Act
An Act to amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act
Christian Paradis Conservative
Introduction and First Reading
Subscribe to a feed of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-12.
June 7th, 2013 / 11:50 a.m.
Christian Paradis Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture)
Mr. Speaker, we thank the Privacy Commissioner for her report, and we indeed have taken measures to have tougher measures. That is why we introduced Bill C-12, which would improve privacy safeguards.
It is unfortunate that the opposition decided to play political games and needlessly delayed the bill.
We seek the support from the opposition. Everything covered in this bill is in response to what was recommended by the committee. I urge the opposition to support Bill C-12 immediately.
June 7th, 2013 / 11:50 a.m.
Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC
Mr. Speaker, it is clear that Conservatives do not take the privacy of Canadians seriously. The commissioner herself has raised concerns about Bill C-12. To paraphrase the Privacy Commissioner, the Conservatives are taking a soft approach when it comes to protecting Canadians' privacy online.
The commissioner made it clear. The present lack of oversight for online snooping is putting Canadians' privacy at risk.
When will the Conservative government agree that we need a tougher law, better oversight, and reporting mechanisms? When will the Conservatives start protecting Canadians' privacy online?
June 7th, 2013 / 11:50 a.m.
Christian Paradis Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture)
Mr. Speaker, naturally we thank the commissioner for her report. Our government is truly determined to protect Canadians' privacy.
That is why we introduced Bill C-12, which strengthens guarantees to protect personal information and implements the committee's recommendations. With all due respect, the bill introduced by my colleague does not cover all these aspects.
We will take the time to carefully study the commissioner's report. However, I would ask the NDP to support Bill C-12, which addresses the committee's findings.
May 28th, 2013 / 4:40 p.m.
Dr. Michael Geist Canada Research Chair, Internet and E-commerce Law, University of Ottawa, As an Individual
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon. As you heard, my name is Michael Geist. I'm a law professor at the University of Ottawa, where I hold the Canada research chair in Internet and e-commerce law, but I appear before this committee today in a personal capacity, representing only my own views.
I appreciate the invitation. I'm certainly supportive of the committee's study on the issue of SME adoption of digital technologies.
As the committee has already heard, Canada fares relatively poorly in some areas when compared with peer countries. For example, you heard from Shopify's Harley Finkelstein on the lower e-commerce adoption rates by Canadian firms as compared to those in the U.S. There are many other studies that point to the same concerns. A 2011 CEFRIO study on Canadian SME ICT adoption found that mobile device usage was relatively low; moreover, many of the online collaborative tools—application sharing, web sharing, video conferencing—are only used by a small minority of Canadian SMEs.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce's 2010 study on SME use of e-business solutions arrived at similar conclusions. Moreover, it pointed to Canada's declining rank, whether in the World Economic Forum's global competitiveness index, the OECD's broadband ranking, or The Economist's e-readiness ranking.
Of course, I suggest that the committee is well aware of these shortcomings, as your May 2012 report, “E-commerce in Canada”, cited similar statistics and studies and took note of the performance of Canadian SMEs.
So we have a problem, and while I'm pleased that the committee is looking at this, you'll forgive me if there is a sense of déjà vu about this discussion. This committee is currently also studying broadband and Internet access across Canada, has completed a study on the IP regime in Canada and, as I've just noted, also completed a study on e-commerce. As you know, you're not alone. The Canadian Heritage committee has completed a study on the entertainment software industry in Canada. The Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics committee completed a study on privacy and social media. The Justice and Human Rights committee has studied cyber-bullying. The Senate committee on Transport and Communications last year released a study on the wireless sector.
My point is that our problems with the digital economy, including SME digital technology adoption, are not the result of a lack of study. Many of these issues have been studied intensively for years. At least part of the problem lies in Canada's lack of a cohesive, forward-looking digital economy strategy. That failure is plainly hurting all aspects of our digital economy. It creates business uncertainty, it undermines consumer adoption of e-commerce, harms innovation, and sends an unmistakable signal that this is simply not a policy priority.
For an SME, the effects of Canada's digital economy strategy failure—something I've often termed as Canada's “Penske file”—can be found everywhere. Let me give three quick examples.
The failure to craft a cohesive strategy to ensure a competitive broadband and wireless market means higher costs and less choice for business and consumers alike. High data rates have often meant that the adoption of mobile solutions have been costlier in Canada than elsewhere, which hurts the business case for ICT investment. Further, when Canadian businesses travel to other countries to explore new opportunities, they face some of the highest roaming fees in the world.
Second, on the regulatory front, the digital economy strategy failure has meant that important legislation has stalled, creating legal uncertainty. For example, an SME considering an electronic marketing campaign will want to know what is permitted under Canadian law. I think that this government rightly passed anti-spam legislation in 2010, but the regulation-making process has dragged on for years, meaning that the law has still not taken effect. As a result, there is uncertainty about what is permitted, uncertainty about what will be permitted, and tailoring an e-marketing strategy is difficult.
Third, and somewhat similarly, Canadians want all businesses, including SMEs, to take security and privacy seriously. Making investment in these areas means factoring these issues into account. Yet with Bill C-12, the privacy reform bill languishing in the House of Commons, and, with all respect, inaccurate criticisms of a private member's bill on security breach disclosure requirements, the message, quite frankly, to SMEs is that the Privacy Commissioner may be concerned with the state of privacy law, but it is not a priority.
Now we could talk about, and I hope we do have the chance to talk about, what a digital economy strategy incorporating SME digital technology adoption might look like, including some of the legislative reforms, educational initiatives, skills training, as well as commitments to increase competition and ensure access for all. But my starting point is simply to say that without a broad-based digital economy strategy that weaves together these various issues, we should not be surprised by the lagging performance by Canadian SMEs. Indeed, we've practically scripted it.
I look forward to your questions.
Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
May 23rd, 2013 / 7:40 p.m.
Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this evening to address this bill. I have never had the honour of sitting on the statutory instruments regulations committee. It sounds as if it might be a very interesting committee. I do find it most fascinating that the government has chosen to use this particular bill, given that we are allocated four or five hours, which is probably more hours of debate than for many other pieces of legislation. However, at the end of the day, it is going to be interesting. I suspect that we might see differing opinions. We in the Liberal Party have a great deal of concern with regard to this bill. We cannot see ourselves supporting it at this time, and we will have to wait and see what happens at committee stage and see if the government is going to be able to address the issues.
We were talking about a different bill, Bill C-475, during private members' business, and it dealt with personal information. A government member stood up and made a comment on how wonderful it would be to have Bill C-12 debated, given that all sides of the House seemed to be supportive of Bill C-12. The member made the suggestion that he would even be prepared to see that bill debated right away. Maybe if the Conservatives recognize the importance of that bill, they might also want to call that; the last time it was brought before the House being back in September 2011. We will have to wait and see.
Another concern that was raised was in the form of questions that I asked both Conservative speakers in regard to the whole issue of the French language. I come from the province of Manitoba, and the French language issue in terms of laws and regulations was a critically important ruling that came from the Supreme Court of Canada. The ruling reflected on many of Manitoba's laws and, because of not having appropriate translation, the court had virtually given Manitoba a time schedule to pass all sorts of other regulations and laws in order to keep them in effect. It gave us a bit of a sunset clause in terms of needing to pass this in order to comply. Otherwise, we would have had a series of laws, whether provincial legislation or regulation, that would have become void. Therefore, we take the issue very seriously in terms of some of the things, and that is the reason I posed the questions.
In looking at Bill S-12, there are a couple of things that are really important to note. Quite often, the intent might be clear. Individuals, whether members of Parliament or those assisting in trying to create legislation or regulation, will be fairly clear on what it is they are trying to accomplish, the actual intent. The real challenge is to try to take that intent that is being expressed and put it into words, and in our case also to ensure that the translation is in essence saying the same thing whether in English or in French. That is a very important point.
As an example, one of the first issues that came up was related to Air Canada. It was an important issue, through which I suspect many individuals who might be listening in on the debate might get a better sense of the importance of converting intent into appropriate words. I recall the Air Canada Public Participation Act that was brought in a number of years ago. There is absolutely no doubt that, if we look at the debates and some of the discussions that took place in the committee, we would find that the intent that was being spoken was that communities like Winnipeg, Mississauga and Montreal would be guaranteed their overhaul maintenance positions.
This literally translated into thousands of jobs in Winnipeg, hundreds of jobs that were in essence guaranteed in that law. That was the intent.
If we read the legislation that is there today, I think most Canadians, in reading it, would come to the same conclusion to which I came. I raised that issue shortly after being elected back in December 2011. When I raised it, it was to challenge the government. It was to tell the Prime Minister that we had a law that said these overhaul maintenance bases were supposed to be guaranteed. Air Canada was legally obligated to maintain those bases.
The Prime Minister and the government responded by saying that this was not necessarily their interpretation. Apparently, the government found a lawyer somewhere who said that this was not the case, that there was no legal obligation.
It did not matter what we attempted, whether it was through postcards or petitions. Many different stakeholders and individuals read the law and said that the law was pretty clear.
I raise that because at the end of the day is it very important. When we think of a regulation or a law, we often talk about what we are hoping to achieve by passing it, but what is written down on that piece of paper and translated is what counts.
As legislators, we have to take that responsibility very seriously. In recognizing what this legislation is doing, it is offloading a great deal of responsibility. I know the record will clearly demonstrate that this has not necessarily been a government that wants to take responsibility. By allowing this legislation to pass as it is, we need to recognize that there will be more laws being put into place with less scrutiny from the House of Commons.
That is one of the effects that the passage of this bill will have. We need to be very clear on that point.
Another profound impact the legislation will have is in regard to the whole idea of incorporation by reference and what will happen in regard to that secondary language, whether it happens to be English or French. We are in a bilingual nation and there is an expectation. I will provide a little more comment on that in a few minutes.
The legislative summary that was provided by the Library of Parliament had some interesting information that is worth expressing. One point deals with the amount of regulation versus laws in terms of numbers of pages. It is interesting to note, and this is a quote from the parliamentary library, “There are, at the federal level alone, approximately 3,000 regulations comprising over 30,000 pages”. Compare that to somewhere in the neighbourhood of 450 statutes, which comprise roughly 13,000 pages.
Furthermore, departments and agencies submit to the regulations section, on average, about 1,000 draft regulations each year, whereas Parliament enacts about 80 bills during the same period. The executive therefore plays a major role in setting the rules of law that apply to Canadian citizens.
What we will find is that the number of laws in comparison to regulations is decreasing as we rely more on regulations. When we go into or finish second reading and then it goes to committee stage, how often do we hear from government representatives or policy analysts who say “this is what the clause says and further explanation will be provided via regulation?” We hear a lot of that.
Why then should we be concerned? We have to be careful that we recognize the importance of laws versus regulations and the incorporation of references into regulations.
We start off with our Constitution and our Charter of Rights. These are things that no one would question. We then go on to laws that would be passed in the House of Commons, then to regulations. Finally, we would go to the incorporation of reference.
Look at each stage and how difficult it is to change the Constitution. We do not see too much public will or interest in changing the Constitution. In terms of legislation, the same principle applies. There is a process of changing legislation. There is first reading, second reading, committee, third reading, the Senate and finally royal assent. There is a great deal of scrutiny that takes place.
What about regulations? There is a legal examination and registration that have to take place. Ultimately, publication takes place in the Canada Gazette.
We can see the difference between them. Each level has a different sense of accountability or process that we have to follow. If we take just the one component, the legal examination, the examination for the passage of legislation will come through here. There are all sorts of responsibilities that all members, particularly critics, caucuses, vested interest groups and stakeholders of a wide variety, have in ensuring there is some form of due diligence and a sense of accountability.
What about the regulation? When it comes to legal examination, we know there is an obligation for the Clerk of the Privy Council. There have been four things that were cited again, dealing specifically with this bill, that came from the Library of Parliament. Those four things in passing or ensuring that there is some form of legal examination of that regulation.
The first is, “(a) it is authorized by the statute pursuant to which it is to be made”. Another way of saying it is that if we want to change or pass a regulation, we want to ensure it is in compliance with the legislation or a current law that has been passed by the House of Commons.
The second is, “(b) it does not constitute an unusual or unexpected use of the authority pursuant to which it is to be made”. That would be something that would obviously make a whole lot of sense. After all, it cannot override a law, like a law cannot override our Constitution.
The third is, “(c) it does not trespass unduly on existing rights and freedoms and is not, in any case, inconsistent with the purposes and provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Bill of Rights”. We are asking that the Clerk of the Privy Council, in consultation with others, ensure that it does not contradict some of those basic rights. Before, if it was a law, it would be something where members, and in particular the Minister of Justice, would play a much stronger role in ensuring the compliance in that regard.
The fourth is, “(d) the form and draftsmanship of the proposed regulations are in accordance with established standards”. This is something where one would expect our legislative counsel and others that assist us to ensure the wording was correct. That is why at the beginning I commented on the importance of wording, that in fact one can be very clear orally what the intent is, but we have to ensure that this intent is put into proper words because it is the wording that is of critical importance.
I would like to quote from the Library of Parliament because I believe it is stated quite well in terms of what specifically, when we think of regulations, is actually at stake in dealing with Bill S-12. I quote directly from the report that has been provided to us from the Library of Parliament. It states:
When Parliament confers a power to make regulations, the regulation-maker usually exercises this power by drafting the text of the regulation to be enacted. The regulation-maker may also decide that the contents of an existing document are what should be used in the regulation it intends to enact. One way to make the contents of such a document part of the text of the regulation would be to reproduce it word for word in the regulation. Alternatively, the regulation-maker can simply refer to the title of the document in the regulation. The contents of the document will then be said to be “incorporated by reference”. The legal effect of incorporation by reference is to write the words of the incorporated document into the regulation just as if it had actually been reproduced word for word. The incorporation by reference of an existing document is no more than a drafting technique, and a regulation-maker need not be granted any specific power in order to resort to this technique. This is referred to as “closed” or “static” incorporation by reference.
We need to be very careful with that. When we talk about international standards, what we are really saying is that incorporation by referencing says that we are going to take a third party standard, whether international, provincial or it does not even have to be a government agency. It could be any sort of a third party and it could be a one paragraph document or it could be a 500-page document.
I see my time has run out. Hopefully there will be a question and I will be able to conclude my comment on that aspect of it.
Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act
Private Members' Business
May 23rd, 2013 / 6:15 p.m.
Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC
Before I begin, Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the members opposite that Bill C-475 does not represent a comprehensive review of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, and for that reason, it cannot be compared with the government’s Bill C-12, which does in fact constitute a thorough review and is much broader in scope. Therefore I would invite the members to learn more about this bill before criticizing it.
I am especially pleased today to speak to this bill which was introduced by my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville. Since being elected she has worked tirelessly on various issues related to the digital world. In particular, she fought against Bill C-30 and forced the Conservative government to kill its online spying bill. She also held public consultations on the North Shore on personal information protection as it relates to her bill.
Today, with Bill C-475, my colleague is calling for the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act to be modernized to take into account the new digital reality. It is hard to believe that this legislation has not been modernized since it was first passed 13 years ago in 2000. Back then, there were no iPods, smart phones, Facebook or Twitter, and I did not even have an email address. It is time for the government to blow the cobwebs away and modernize this legislation to better protect Canadians’ personal information.
The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act is based on the ombudsman model. The primary duty of the privacy commissioner is to investigate complaints concerning privacy breaches. The privacy commissioner has the power to investigate, to file complaints, to conduct audits and to publicly report on an organization’s personal information management practices. However, the act does not give the commissioner the power to make compliance orders, or in other words, to order organizations to amend their practices or face a fine if they fail to do so.
To clearly grasp the issue here, I would like to give a few examples that illustrate the need to give the Privacy Commissioner more powers. The commissioner recalled that in 2010, the retailer Staples had failed to delete all of the client data stored on devices such as laptops or USB hard drives that had been returned to their stores and were slated for resale. What is most disturbing is that this retailer had been investigated twice before and was still not complying with the commissioner’s orders.
Let us be honest here. The government created a watchdog who in essence has been muzzled. This watchdog does not have the power to enforce the act. This initiative by my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville would give the Privacy Commissioner the means to do her job.
Another example is Google Street View, which collected personal information such as email addresses, emails, usernames, passwords, telephone numbers and street addresses. The commissioner found that this practice constituted a serious breach of Canadians’ right to privacy. In this instance, the outcome was a little more positive. Google appears to have accepted the recommendations of the commissioner, who observed that the company was on the right track to resolving these major problems.
I should also like to mention the Edmonton-based site Nexopia, which describes itself as the largest social networking site for young Canadians. The site has over 1.6 million registered users, 80% of whom live in Canada. Nexopia.com users create profiles, engage in blogging, create photo galleries and post articles, artwork, music, poems and videos. The problem is that Nexopia does not have any kind of system in place to block public searches of the profiles of young users, and the website does not allow users to shield their profile from the public. You can see the problem.
These facts are troubling, considering that young people are often careless when it comes to their personal information and that they are targeted by many companies and some offenders. The commissioner conducted a thorough investigation, found that this organization was not in compliance with the legislation in a number of areas and issued 24 recommendations.
Following the release of her report, the federal Privacy Commissioner was forced to ask the Federal Court to make an order compelling Nexopia to stop retaining personal information. Since this action was launched, Nexopia has changed hands, and we are still waiting for the new owner to follow up on all of the commissioner’s recommendations.
Bill C-475 introduced by my colleague attempts to resolve much of the problem by amending the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act in two ways. First, it would give the Privacy Commissioner enforcement powers, the power to order an organization that has failed to comply with the act to take the necessary steps to comply. Any organization that refused to take action within the timeframe set by the commissioner would risk a fine of up to $500,000.
As well, the bill makes it mandatory to signal any data breaches that could harm an individual. If an individual's personal information has been compromised in a way that could harm that individual, the organization responsible must inform the privacy commissioner of the violation. The commissioner can then determine if the violation could harm the individual and may force the organization responsible to inform the individual that their personal information has been compromised. Non-compliance could result in a fine of up to $500,000.
We believe that this will help increase compliance with the law, reduce the cost of the current process, and reduce delays. It will also establish solid case law that will allow individuals and organizations to better understand their rights and responsibilities.
I would like to point out that three provinces already have laws that are basically similar to the federal law concerning privacy in the private sector. Unlike Ottawa, the provinces of Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia empower their commissioner to make binding decisions in certain circumstances.
As my colleague mentioned when she introduced the bill, it seems that there is a consensus among the public to increase fines for offenders. As the Commissioner said, it is important to note that Canadians are the heaviest Internet users worldwide, spending an average of 45 hours a month online.
We are also among the most avid users of networking websites in the world. I was not surprised to hear that half of Canadians are on Facebook. In light of those statistics, it is not surprising that privacy is an ongoing concern for Canadians.
The 2011 Canadians and Privacy Survey found that the vast majority of respondents are in favour of stiff penalties for organizations that fail to protect peoples' privacy. More than 8 out of 10 respondents want to see measures passed to name offending organizations, impose fines or take the organizations to court.
The Commissioner herself is calling for more power to fulfill her mandate. In her 2011 report, she said:
In recent years, we have seen very serious, large-scale data breaches. Data breach notification, in itself, may not be sufficient to create the kind of incentives necessary to ensure that organizations take security issues more seriously in the current environment. Many other countries are taking a harder line on breaches. For example, the United States has been a leader in this area and virtually all states have data breach laws. Meanwhile, a European Commission Regulation proposed in early 2012 included data breach provisions and very significant fining powers for European data protection authorities. Commissioner Stoddart has encouraged the federal government to explore strengthened enforcement options that would create stronger incentives for organizations to ensure personal information is adequately protected.
The report could not have been any clearer.
Why are the Conservatives so soft on those whose business practices are compromising Canadians' personal data?
As a final point, it is important to understand that the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and this bill apply to the use of personal information only in the private sector. Ideally, the proposed measures would also apply to government organizations.
I know in the past my hon. colleague has asked the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics to examine the possibility of opening up the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act to resolve this issue.
In closing, it is unfortunate that the Conservatives oppose this, and I hope we can come up with a solution to this serious problem.
Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act
Private Members' Business
May 23rd, 2013 / 6:10 p.m.
Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry
First, I will correct the record for the hon. member. I think it was February 15, and I do not know if the hon. member was here, when our House leader certainly made very clear that we were willing to move Bill C-12 to committee, but it was obstructed by the opposition party that denied consent for that.
The Internet has become a platform for commerce. More and more online transactions rely on flows of information, including personal information. In fact, personal information is often cited as the lifeblood of the modern economy. It is a key asset and a driver for innovation. However, for information to continue to be an engine of growth and innovation, it is necessary to maintain a solid foundation of trust in the fair and responsible handling of personal information.
As the opposition is well aware, the government already has amendments to PIPEDA before the House in the form of Bill C-12, the safeguarding Canadians' personal information act. The amendments in this bill are the result of extensive public consultations and reflect the work of our parliamentary committee and legislative review process. They reflect the values of Canadian consumers as well as the realities of the marketplace.
Bill C-12 establishes broad-based, balanced, comprehensive improvements to PIPEDA which set out enhanced protections for Canadians' privacy, while ensuring that legitimate business needs for information are met.
By contrast, the opposition's approach to privacy in Bill C-475 introduces only two new measures in PIPEDA. The first of these is a potentially costly and administratively burdensome data breach notification regime.
Bill C-475 would require that organizations report every data breach involving a “possible risk of harm”, no matter how remote to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. The commissioner must then spend time determining whether each one of those breaches poses an “appreciable risk of harm”, and thereby warrants notification to affected individuals.
In contrast, the government's Bill C-12 proposes an approach to data breach notification that balances the cost to organizations of unnecessary notifications with the needs of consumers.
Bill C-12 would require notification to individuals only in situations where the organization determined that a breach carried a “real risk of significant harm”, which includes both financial harm, such as fraud, and non-financial harm, such as humiliation. This would eliminate the need for costly notification where it was not needed. This would minimize the compliance burden on organizations and reduce the risk of notification fatigue among consumers, while ensuring individuals would get the information they needed to protect themselves.
The opposition's Bill C-475 contains a lengthy list of consequences for non-compliance. This includes a monetary penalty of up to $500,000, which I am sure members will agree is a significant amount. However, should penalties for small businesses in our communities be as large as those of multinationals? The opposition seems to think this should be the case because Bill C-475 is silent on this question.
In contrast, the proposed measures in Bill C-12 reflect the importance of personal information to the smooth functioning of the marketplace. They address barriers to information flows, which were unforeseen when the act first came into force. They clarify and streamline privacy rules for business, while at the same time providing companies with the information they require to continue to grow and prosper.
Consumer information plays a role in many legitimate businesses. Financing transactions and acquisitions that occur in the normal course of development of many businesses require an assessment of business assets. These assets can include databases containing the personal information of customers the businesses intend to keep serving or information about the training and skills of employees who will continue to work with the business. Without the ability to access this personal information, it can be difficult for companies to assess the economic viability of a particular transaction.
Bill C-12 proposes to amend PIPEDA to enable companies to review personal information when necessary to conduct the proper due diligence prior to engaging in business dealings. Before any information can be shared between parties to a business transaction, each party must enter into a formal agreement that constrains the use of the information to purposes related to the transaction itself. In keeping with PIPEDA's existing principles, the agreement must also require the parties to protect that information with strong security safeguards.
Bill C-12 involves amendments that will remove barriers to the availability of information that is necessary to establish, manage or end an employment relationship.
Private sector representatives and the Privacy Commissioner of Canada have recognized that adjustments to PIPEDA were needed to reflect the unique context of the employment relationship.
As a result, Bill C-12 would amend the act to address situations where, for example, employers might need to collect and use the personal information of their employees to issue identification cards and control access to restricted areas.
These measures have been carefully balanced to maintain the protection of employee privacy by limiting the collection, use or disclosure of employees' personal information to that which is absolutely necessary and by ensuring that individuals are notified when their information is being collected, used or disclosed in the employment context.
Bill C-12 also follows up on other key recommendations. For instance, it would provide greater certainty and would clarify rules for business by streamlining private sector investigations. PIPEDA currently allows companies to share personal information with organizations that have a legitimate mandate to conduct investigations into breaches of agreements and contraventions of the law.
However, under PIPEDA, a burdensome and lengthy regulatory process is required in order to render this effective. To date, four separate regulatory processes have had to be launched to allow for the designation of 84 organizations or classes of investigative organizations with more expected.
Under Bill C-12, if passed, Parliament will act to replace this onerous regulatory process with an exception that will enable the information to be shared only in limited circumstances. Indeed, the government will only allow this information to be shared when it is necessary for the conduct of investigations and for fraud prevention.
I call upon members to support Bill C-12 rather than Bill C-475. I would mention for my colleagues from across the way that if they actually want to pass Bill C-12, as they seem to, both parties have mentioned it in the last few minutes, we would be glad to have that discussion and move it to committee tomorrow.
Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act
Private Members' Business
May 23rd, 2013 / 6 p.m.
Murray Rankin Victoria, BC
Frankly, the question that arises is: Whatever happened to Bill C-12? This was to be the government's showpiece legislation to reform private sector privacy in Canada. That was back on September 29, 2011, and it is missing in action. As my colleagues have said repeatedly, privacy is the victim. Canadians are expecting, in this 21st century world in which we live, this digital economy, that their privacy will be protected.
I want to say in my remarks that this is good for business. This is actually essential for business. We can talk about privacy protection in the private sector as a human right, but we can also talk about it as being good for business, and I want to give a couple of examples where, in fact, we have kind of missed the boat on that.
The government had the opportunity. There was a requirement for it to bring in Bill C-12. It did not do this because of privacy protection concerns or even for good business reasons; it had to do it because the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act required that there be a statutory review. It has taken a long time, and I guess we will have another statutory review before it ever deals with Bill C-12. The point is that it is not just bad for privacy for all the reasons I have said, including the digital economy changing so utterly since 2001, but it is bad for business. That is a language the government, presumably, will understand, so let me talk about business.
We live in a world of big data. The current Foreign Affairs magazine talks about the rise of big data. Canadian Business magazine talks about a couple of examples where Canada, sadly, dropped the ball. Let me explain.
A few years ago Google made overtures in Quebec, but the provincial government and Hydro-Québec were unwilling to provide the kind of electricity required so a large data centre could be situated in that jurisdiction. What happened? Google went to Finland and, as a result, the company built a 350-million-euro data centre. Facebook is currently building a 900,000-square-foot facility 100 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle in Sweden. There is a gigantic industry available for gigantic data, and Canada is missing the train. Why is that?
We have cheap electricity by world standards. That should be easy. We have a very secure Canadian Shield in which we could situate these large data centres. Places like Kamloops in British Columbia have been considered. Here is what else we have. We have laws in the private sector that are substantially similar to those of the European Union. It has a very strong data protection law there. It cares deeply about privacy in that jurisdiction. Companies like Facebook have come to Canada and, essentially, test driven their new privacy regimes to see if they pass muster under the Canadian privacy laws, because if they do, they probably will pass muster in the European Union, the U.K. and places of that sort, since our laws are substantially similar.
Canada is perfectly situated between the United States and Europe with a relatively robust privacy protection regime to attract lots of business, but we dropped the ball. The government has utterly dropped the ball with Bill C-12. Who knows if it will ever see the light of day? I say that is tragic for business.
My colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville has spoken strongly in favour of privacy as a constitutional right, and that is true, of course, but the business side of this is good as well. What does her bill do? It does two fundamental things. It deals with breach notification, which according to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada today, 97% of Canadians think is a good idea, according to a poll. Talk about a no-brainer. Second, it talks about better enforcement provisions and order-making powers. Let me speak about each of those things that her bill would do.
First, in Bill C-475 there is a requirement to notify the commissioner of a breach if there is a possible risk of harm. We have seen lots of breaches where credit card information has found its way to various places it ought not to be, and the like, medical information, information that Canadians hold dear. If there is a risk of harm, the notification must be made in a form prescribed in regulations or otherwise specified by the commissioner.
We do not put everything in statutes; we wait for regulations to put flesh on the bones. That is how we do business. It is not surprising that is the way this has been proposed in Bill C-475 as well.
Then there was some concern because the bill talks about the commissioner requiring the organization to notify affected individuals to whom there is an “appreciable risk of harm” as a result of the data breach. Somehow I gather we should be criticized for the appreciable risk not being spelled out. Well, do we have “reasonable person” standards spelled out in our laws? Do we have every situation in the Criminal Code spelled out? Of course not. We use general words. We allow courts and commissioners and regulatory bodies to figure out what those mean. That is the way we do business. It is not surprising that has not been spelled out in detail here either. That is entirely consistent with normal Canadian drafting processes.
The commissioner would have the ability to order the private sector organization to notify individuals and the bill provides a certain number of criteria that should be considered in doing so. Then there is the possibility of an administrative monetary penalty, depending on certain factors that are listed, of up to $500,000. There is, of course, the issue of the right of action that the commissioner might have against an organization that has not complied with orders.
To me, these are entirely common sense, entirely 21st century provisions. I am so pleased that Canada's highly respected privacy commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, has agreed entirely with these initiatives at a press conference in Toronto today. I thought this quote was perfectly in line with my colleague's bill. She said:
Personal information has been called the oil of the digital economy. As organizations find new ways to profit from personal information, the risks to privacy are growing exponentially.
That goes to the point that the law we have in Canada, although good at the time in 2001, is entirely out of date and everyone knows it has to be improved. The Conservatives seem to not want to do that. Therefore, this bill would at least get us half the way there with two key things.
Finally, we would have order making power for the commissioner. I live in British Columbia. In my province and in the provinces of Quebec, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador, people have had the ability for this umpire in the game, this ombudsperson, to make orders where appropriate, and the sky has not fallen. It seems to me it has worked extremely well.
Why is it that we have taken so long to come up with what has been proven to be a huge success story at the provincial level? Imagine that: an administrative body making an order. How many thousands of examples can we find in Canadian legislation of just that kind of power? This is hardly surprising or radical. It is consistent with administrative justice regimes we find at the federal and provincial levels across the country.
The other thing Canadians want is breach notification. That is the other key element in this initiative. Why? It is because it is the most visceral example of privacy violation. When thousands of records frequently find themselves in the hands of others, not only is there a risk of identity theft and enormous personal loss, not only is it a drain on our economy if that occurs, but there is also a sense of enormous personal violation when individuals' privacy is put at risk.
There is an example in the United Kingdom, where someone left a data stick in the back of one of those black London taxis. It contained the records of several million British taxpayers. Just think what one could do with that information, not just economically. Think of the kind of very sensitive information that would entail. One could find out who was paying money to people, for example, who might have children of whom their current partner was unaware. That would be shown by way of alimony payments and maintenance payments that could be deducted from income tax.
There are a zillion examples of those kinds of breaches. Canadians are worried about that. According to our privacy commissioner, 97% in a survey expressed that concern.
I want to congratulate my colleague for her excellent work in bringing forward Bill C-475. I am shocked that our Government of Canada has not seen fit to move forward with Bill C-12. We get more platitudes about it but no action. I am thankful for the action this legislation entails.
Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act
Private Members' Business
May 23rd, 2013 / 5:55 p.m.
Scott Andrews Avalon, NL
Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member talking about supporting Bill C-12. The problem is that the bill has been sitting on the order paper now for almost a year and the government has done absolutely nothing in advancing it, so that we could get it to committee and have a debate on it. One thing that Bill C-475 does is move forward the debate on privacy and the access to and protection of people's private information.
We are encouraged by Bill C-475 and want to get it to committee so we can update the legislation that has been in place. Only today, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Commissioner Stoddart, said we are falling behind and we are at risk of not being up to date with others around the world.
PIPEDA has been in place since 2001 with no changes since that particular date. On that, Commissioner Stoddart said:
Back in 2001, when PIPEDA began coming into force, --and even when I became Privacy Commissioner in 2003--there was no Facebook, no Twitter and no Google Street View. Phones weren’t smart. “The cloud” was something that threatened picnic plans. And predictive analytics was largely the domain of tarot card readers.
Things have changed in the last 15 years and we need to get up to date. Bill C-475 is a good first start. We need to also look at the commissioner's white paper released today, because she did say we are at risk of falling behind.
The reforms that need to be made to PIPEDA include stronger enforcement powers, requiring organizations to report breaches of personal information, requiring organizations to publicly report the number of disclosures they make and modifying the accountability principle.
One of the things the commissioner even said today is that she has no power. The only power the commissioner has is to name companies who breach these laws, so we need strong legislation and enforcement powers, and we need to make sure she has power to fine. Some of that may be in Bill C-12, but we have not seen that and we have not seen it being moved forward in the legislature.
These things do need to be updated. We look forward to having some more debate and getting this bill to committee so that we can really dig into it to see how these changes are going to have an impact and what improvements may need to be made to the bill from the information commissioner. We look forward to doing that in committee.
Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act
Private Members' Business
May 23rd, 2013 / 5:45 p.m.
Parm Gill Brampton—Springdale, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to private member's Bill C-475.
I thank the hon. member for the opportunity to discuss our government's approach to protecting Canadians from data breaches. This issue is one of many the government has committed to addressing in its own bill to update the Personal Information Protection and Electronics Documents Act, namely Bill C-12, which is currently awaiting second reading.
I wish to point out that the data breach notification regime proposed in Bill C-475 takes a starkly different approach than that in Bill C-12. Bill C-475 requires organizations to first notify the Privacy Commissioner of every potential data breach, regardless of context or remoteness. The Privacy Commissioner must then determine whether affected individuals should be notified. Given the potential number of breaches that could be reported, such a regime would increase costs and burdensome compliance procedures for Canadian businesses and would impose an unwieldy financial and administrative burden on the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, generating more costs than benefits for taxpayers.
In contrast to the approach in Bill C-475, Bill C-12 requires that organizations determine whether a breach of personal information poses a real risk of significant harm to individuals. The organization experiencing the breach is in the best position to understand and assess the risks and decide quickly what should be done to protect individuals without delay. With appropriate oversight by the Privacy Commissioner, the responsibility should rest with the organization experiencing the breach. Bill C-12 also requires an organization to report a potential breach to the Privacy Commissioner when there is real risk of significant harm.
The Privacy Commissioner retains oversight of the notification process and would have the option of initiating an investigation if it were believed that notification was not done properly or did not occur when it was required. This also provides her office with information on the nature and number of breaches that have occurred.
There are other differences between the approaches to notification taken in the two bills. Bill C-475 states two factors that are to be used by an organization when determining whether to report a breach to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. These factors are the sensitivity of the information and the number of individuals impacted by the breach. The use of only these two factors to determine risk related to a breach does not allow for consideration of circumstances to determine if a potential breach could be harmful.
This approach in Bill C-475 to determine whether to report a breach to the commissioner would also not capture breaches impacting only one or a few individuals, even where there is a high risk of significant harm to those individuals. This leaves a large portion of potentially harmful incidents outside of the legislation.
By contrast, Bill C-12 lays out different factors for determining whether a breach poses a real risk of harm, namely the sensitivity of the information and the potential for the misuse of that information. This requires the organization to assess all the circumstances around the breach, including, for example, whether the information was encrypted, whether it was fully recovered, or whether the circumstances suggest criminal involvement. All of these issues must be considered when determining the risk related to a particular data breach. If not, we run the risk of not capturing all harmful breaches or of focusing on capturing too many remote potential breaches, thereby increasing the burden on organizations and quite possibly reducing the commissioner's capacity for dealing with those that would cause harm.
Under Bill C-475, the proposed threshold to be used by the Privacy Commissioner for determining whether to order an organization to notify individuals is “appreciable risk of harm”. This term is ambiguous and is not defined in the bill. It is therefore not clear what type of breaches this threshold is meant to capture.
The manner of notification to individuals required by Bill C-475 is stated as “...clear and delivered directly...in the prescribed form and manner”. However, there are no details provided on what that form and manner would entail. Furthermore, the bill would not provide for regulation-making power to address this. PIPEDA applies to a very broad range of organizations of all sizes to ensure the timely notification of individuals. The means of notification imposed by any legislative requirement should be flexible enough to accommodate the varying circumstances in which these organizations find themselves.
For example, Bill C-12 would allow organizations to use means of notification such as website notices or paid advertisements, where necessary. This can be an important tool in situations where there is a large group of individuals who have not provided their current contact details, for instance. Organizations need access to every method available to reach those concerned in a timely manner. The new requirement proposed by Bill C-475 would create considerable uncertainty and would be burdensome and costly for organizations. In the U.S., where this issue is tracked annually, the average cost to an organization of a single notification is estimated to be $194. The average total cost to an organization for a data breach is approximately $5.5 million. As entrepreneurs in our communities strive to grow our economy and create jobs for Canadian families, we should take care to examine more efficient alternatives to ineffective procedures. These new requirements might even diminish the value of notification because of notification fatigue, causing individuals to ignore the numerous notices they receive. Bill C-475 would thus undermine its own purpose.
In summary, the opposition's approach in Bill C-475 would impose an administrative burden on the Privacy Commissioner and a financial burden on organizations and would impede timely disclosure of data breaches to individuals. Bill C-475 also does not define key terms adequately and does not capture many potentially harmful breaches, such as those involving a small number of individuals.
The notification regime proposed under Bill C-12, on the other hand, is a careful, risk-based approach that would balance the need for notification to individuals with the cost of notification. The comprehensive approach of Bill C-12 could be applied to the vast range of circumstances and considerations faced by the various types of businesses, both large and small, that are subject to our federal private-sector privacy legislation.