Evidence of meeting #43 for Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was social.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Warren Everson  Senior Vice-President, Policy, Canadian Chamber of Commerce
  • Brendan Wycks  Executive Director, Marketing Research and Intelligence Association
  • Annie Pettit  Vice-President, Marketing Research and Intelligence Association

11:40 a.m.

Vice-President, Marketing Research and Intelligence Association

Annie Pettit

Thousands, millions? I do not have the exact number.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

We all talk about the big ones, but how are we going to make something that's applicable to not only the big social media companies but the small social media companies...?

11:40 a.m.

Vice-President, Marketing Research and Intelligence Association

Annie Pettit

There are probably 100 new ones every single day.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

Really?

11:40 a.m.

Vice-President, Marketing Research and Intelligence Association

Annie Pettit

Oh, for sure. There are the top 100 Facebooks, LinkedIns, and Twitters, but it goes far, far beyond that.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

Back to the market companies. Near the end of your statement you talked about self-regulating. How do we as politicians trust people to self-regulate when there are so many of them out there? I'm sure there are good ones and bad ones, but how do you have faith that some sort of self-regulation will work?

11:40 a.m.

Executive Director, Marketing Research and Intelligence Association

Brendan Wycks

In the case of our association, I think the parliamentarians and legislatures can have faith and trust based on our track record over many years and the self-regulatory mechanisms we have in place. For example, we have a mechanism called the research registration system, under which companies go on our site and register the projects they have out with the public at any given point in time. That allows respondents across the country to phone in or by e-mail verify the legitimacy of the survey, because it has been registered with the self-regulatory association.

In the case of the social media companies, it's a difficult task, because they're so numerous and so varied and they cater to different sizes and types of audiences. Even for, say, an association within Canada, such as the Canadian Marketing Association, it would be a monumental task to bring all those types of companies into the tent and get them to agree to adhere to standards and proper self-regulation. I know there is a characterization out there now that social media marketing is like the wild west, because none of them belongs to self-regulatory associations.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

Go ahead.

11:40 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Policy, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Warren Everson

I'll make a quick point here.

Self-regulation is a subject in its own right, but it is illegal to collect personal information and resell it in Canada without consent. So we're not relying on self-regulation to protect the privacy of Canadians: PIPEDA already bans that practice.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

Any time you have this, how does the government or how does anybody police it? It must be very difficult to police, unless it's complaint-driven.

11:45 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Policy, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Warren Everson

Response to most crime in Canada is complaint-driven. We don't preauthorize transactions and so forth. You have to be robbed before you complain to the police, before they investigate the robbery.

I understand what you're saying, but I don't think the assumption should be that commerce shouldn't take place until an agent of the state has approved it. It has to be responsive to criminality.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

That leads me to the question I had for you.

Do I have some time?

11:45 a.m.

NDP

The Chair Pierre-Luc Dusseault

No, I am sorry.

We now move to Mr. Calkins, for seven minutes.

June 5th, 2012 / 11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Thank you very much, Chair.

Mr. Everson, thank you very much for coming today.

I saw you last week at committee. You're a man of many talents. You're able to come and talk about a wide breadth of issues on behalf of the chamber. It's much appreciated.

Of course, Mr. Wycks and Ms. Pettit, thank you very much for being here.

I have some concerns about the industry in general. I want to talk about something Michael Geist, who testified before our committee last week, said. He said the devil is in the defaults. I thought that was quite apropos. From my perspective, what I would like to see out of this is that the need to protect individual Canadians' privacy be balanced against the economic growth that you talked about, Mr. Everson.

I think that's key. I'm glad we have some semblance of self-regulation here and have an inward-looking organization like yours, which basically monitors how we're doing things and how we're conducting ourselves. I think that's a great thing. I believe we should only have government where necessary, not necessarily have government in all aspects of our lives. But I do think the government has a role to play here, and I'll be getting to that.

I'd like to talk about “the devil's in the defaults”. I have young kids who have iPods and all these other kinds of devices. I do what I can as a parent to protect my children, to protect the integrity of our network in our house, but there's only so much that it's reasonable to do. I read through pages and pages of agreements—user agreements and so on. They're written in a language that frankly I don't think most lawyers could even understand, much less lay people. I'm surprised often, when I find out, that the default settings on most things that I accept an agreement to.... They sometimes frighten me in the degree to which I've allowed my personal information to be shared.

I would like to ask you, Mr. Everson, do you think we have an appropriate balance right now? You were fairly complimentary to PIPEDA. Do you think we have enough protection from the perspective of protecting people's information right up front, right at the very first opportunity, by the use of default settings as to what can be shared and what can't be shared?

To Mr. Wycks and Ms. Pettit, from a self-regulatory perspective, do you think the groups that you represent—the organizations, your clients, the people you study, the people you do work on behalf of—are using defaults appropriately?

11:45 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Policy, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Warren Everson

Thank you very much. It's nice to see you again.

Mr. Calkins is getting close to his maximum safe exposure to Warren Everson this week. You want to be cautious about that.

That's a really big mouthful of a question, as you know. I think society will use a defence in depth with regard to privacy. That defence will include a proper understanding of what the consent is. I certainly support the committee in the tone of your questions concerning frustration about consent being hard to follow and hard to understand. I don't suppose the suppliers of the service necessarily take much joy in it either.

I think the caution of the consumer can't be ignored. My children are much more concerned about Internet privacy than I am, because they have been lectured to about it so much and can cite off all the rules that exist for the social media they're employing. I don't know whether they represent any standard or not, but they are certainly not unconscious of the issue; they are suspicious.

Madam Borg started with asking whether there is a lack of trust. There is a lack of trust, and it's probably a darned healthy thing that it exists there.

We have seen in the last couple of years some pretty significant changes to privacy in the big offerings. Facebook has upgraded its privacy standards, and that's an ongoing debate. You can hardly pick up a newspaper without seeing discussion about it. I note that Google handles people who identify themselves as young consumers differently, as to how much information is available in their social chat services. I became aware not long ago of a service called Hangout, where people can go and hang out. When a stranger enters that enclave, everyone is notified, and if the stranger does not properly identify, the site closes, so they would have to reassemble it. There are all kinds of technical security and privacy services that have been invented by the technical side of the business, conscious of consumer concern.

I'm just going to say one more thing. As you proceed in your hearings, obviously you're going to want to know exactly what the law currently makes illegal and how often it has been employed by people. It's my contention that the law is not bad in Canada. Probably public awareness is quite low as to exactly what recourse exists.