An Act to amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (order-making power)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Charmaine Borg  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Defeated, as of Jan. 29, 2014
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act to, among other things, give the Privacy Commissioner the power to make compliance orders and the Federal Court the power to impose fines in cases of non-compliance.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Jan. 29, 2014 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents ActPrivate Members' Business

December 5th, 2013 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-475, An Act to amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (order-making power), which I will refer to as PIPEDA, to make things easier.

I want to begin by putting this bill into context. From May to December 2012, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics conducted a study on social media and privacy. Numerous witnesses testified as part of that study, including Internet and privacy experts, privacy commissioners, community groups and others.

Those witnesses raised the point that more and more information is being gathered and used for business and marketing purposes. In fact, businesses collect this information, use it and share it without the consent of the individuals concerned, which is in violation of PIPEDA.

Given the concerns raised in committee by the many experts from various fields, the wonderful member for Terrebonne—Blainville introduced Bill C-475 in the House in order to try to respond to those concerns and observations from the community and strengthen the bill in question.

I would add that Bill C-475 is attempting to amend an act that has not been reviewed since 2000. Allow me to digress. I may belong to the last generation that can claim to remember the first day when a computer came into the house. This computer was not in colour and the screen was black and yellow and square-shaped, with blurry graphics.

I remember the first time I typed my homework on a keyboard. I was typing with two fingers and this was very time-consuming. I kept hitting the on/off button with my toe. I would always lose my work because there was no autosave feature for documents at that time. In short, I have a whole lot of memories that I might be able to share with my children and grandchildren one day.

In the meantime, I will point out that it is completely absurd that a privacy act has not been reviewed since 2000. I think I do not need to say more on that subject. It is high time we made changes to this act.

First, Bill C-475, which amends an act that needs to be updated, grants powers of enforcement to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Moreover, the commissioner herself emphasized that she wished to have these powers when she appeared before the committee. In other countries and in certain Canadian provinces, the law provides for measures that give more powers to the commissioner. However, this is not the case for Canada. We hope this will change soon.

Who is the commissioner and what powers does she have exactly? This is a good question, and it has to be answered before we say her powers must be increased. I will take the definition used by the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic of the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa, which describes the commissioner as follows:

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada acts as an ombudsman who investigates complaints and negotiates solutions.... While the Commissioner does not have the authority to order an organization to change their personal information policies or procedures she may make public any information relating to the personal information management practices of an organization.

That summarizes the commissioner's existing powers. Bill C-475 would enhance those powers.

The commissioner recommends that organizations that refuse to implement the measures she suggests be required to abide by the law and comply with deadlines set by the commissioner, and even be liable to a fine in cases of non-compliance.

The commissioner therefore needs a little more power over Internet-based offenders.

Bill C-475's second goal is mandatory reporting of all data breaches that could harm the individuals concerned. I do not need to go into detail about how the Internet is changing quickly and how now, young and old alike are putting more and more information out there. Things are changing quickly, and we have to ensure that we can keep up with it all, understand it and regulate it.

Companies collect, sell and share this information. Part of the solution is educating people and raising awareness about the kind of information they disclose on the Internet. Still, it makes sense that people should know what is being done with their information because, after all, that information can be very valuable to the companies that can use it. That is not a bad thing in and of itself, but there should be rules for using that information.

People who create a Facebook account are asked to supply quite a lot of information. They are not the ones who decide they want that information to show up on their Facebook page. No, there is a whole form to fill out that includes their year of birth, where they live, their address, favourite movies, favourite music and much more. That is just Facebook. I use Facebook because I am not very well-versed in using other technologies. I joined Twitter just a few months ago because my colleagues and assistants pressured me to. Things are going well so far, but there are still some concerns.

A closer look at the details of this bill, at what can and cannot be done, at the powers that the Canadian commissioner has compared to commissioners in other provinces and other countries, gives us reason for concern.

Perhaps I am a little paranoid when it come to technology, but when a window appears with a little red x, I am afraid to even click on it. I wonder if that will even close the window that just appeared without me wanting it to, or if I will be clicking on a link that will give information to some company, or what have you. You know what I mean. It is hard to know what we can even trust anymore. It is not only what I decide to disclose myself, but it goes much further in terms of what information can be collected, whether we like it or not. Information can even be collected without us knowing.

It is therefore high time that we took action to update the Privacy Act.

It is this government's responsibility to move forward on this, and quickly. Things are changing fast, and we need to take a first step. This bill might not solve everything, of course, but it does address some of the concerns expressed by experts and by the commissioner herself in the parliamentary committee's examination. I really hope the government will bring forward something like this. It would be the least it could do.

In closing, I would like to point out that the Union des consommateurs believes that the implementation of the principles proposed by the NDP, through their private member's bill amending the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, constitutes a real advancement to better protect the privacy of consumers.

I would also like to commend the enthusiasm of my NDP colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville and congratulate her. She has demonstrated her competence in managing this file for our party. She has remained very open and co-operative, and has been extremely innovative and dynamic in her collaboration with stakeholders from all walks of life in this file. She has introduced a very important bill, and I hope that we can continue for the well-being of current and future generations, in order to bring in extraordinary technologies, which can sometimes cause us some concern.

Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents ActPrivate Members' Business

December 5th, 2013 / 5:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have had many occasions in my years in Parliament to speak in this House, but never at such an auspicious time. Oh my gosh, when I hear that Nelson Mandela just passed away, I want to share a personal experience, if I might.

My family used in live in South Africa, and much of it still does. They are white South Africans, and they lived there through Nelson Mandela's rise to power. He could have been many things, but he was a great humanitarian. He was forgiving when many might not have been. He was compassionate and understanding when others might not have been. As I make my other comments, they almost seem subdued compared to the very real experience of Nelson Mandela's impact on the world. Others will say things more articulately than I, but I will say that if the world could be measured by the quality of what Nelson Mandela brought to humanity, this would be a much better world.

I will speak now to Bill C-475 and its impact on organizations and the public. Of course, I am referring to Canada's private sector privacy law, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, otherwise known as PIPEDA, which the bill looks to amend.

PIPEDA was developed with an important objective in mind, and that is balance. The act is designed to balance an individual's right to privacy with an organization's need to collect, use, or disclose personal information for legitimate business purposes.

I was president of a large company in London, Ontario, when PIPEDA was first introduced. For those who do not know, that is the tenth-largest city in Canada. I would say we invested considerable funds, as did corporations across Canada, to ensure compliance and to do the right thing, because a corporation must be measured in terms of being honourable and doing the right thing. The costs associated with PIPEDA then and now are very real and ongoing, but in a corporation's business it is important to comply, for the sake of the public, which is what we are talking about in terms of this legislation today.

When PIPEDA was first introduced, the government stated that in order for Canada to become a leader in the knowledge-based economy and in electronic commerce, consumers and businesses had to be comfortable with new technologies and the impact that these technologies would have on their lives. I believe that policy objective still stands. However, in order to maintain that important balance in PIPEDA, we must consider the burden imposed by the proposed requirements of this act and always weigh that burden against the corresponding benefit to society.

We all agree that requiring organizations to report certain data breaches is necessary. Data breaches can pose a serious threat to the protection of our personal information and to the security of organizations and individuals. Reporting certain data breaches publicly would allow individuals to protect themselves, and it would also encourage better data security practices by organizations. That is laudable, yet it must said that there are ways to achieve these goals without creating an undue burden on organizations and the Privacy Commissioner.

Data breach notification has the potential to be cost-prohibitive while not providing the kind of information the public requires. For example, in the United States, where this process is tracked closely, the average cost to an organization of a single notification is estimated at $188 per record, and when this figure is multiplied by the number of those potentially affected, any data breach notification could result in substantial cost to companies that must deal with that breach. Based on this data, the total average cost of a data breach to an organization is approximately $5.4 million.

As most states have mandatory reporting of data breaches, there are hundreds of breaches reported every year. According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, an organization that tracks this, there were 592 breaches reported by the private sector in the United States last year. These incidents involved the information of more than 11 million individuals. That number is extraordinary. As organizations south of the border are required to notify so often, notification fatigue among the public can be a serious result.

When notification processes become simply a matter of sending out a form letter to individuals, there is always a deep concern that these letters become increasingly perceived by recipients as junk mail. We have learned from the experience of other jurisdictions. That is why this government believes the best approach to notification is one based on risk, where notification should be required only for those breaches that represent the potential for significant harm to individuals. In this way, consumers would only receive notifications when necessary and would accord them the attention they deserve, instead of seeing these messages as unwanted spam. What we are talking about here is modernization, not overhaul, as proposed Bill C-475 suggests.

The Privacy Commissioner has been a strong advocate for data breach notification. I would like to point out, however, that even she has not asked to be informed of all breaches, nor has she asked for the responsibility to determine the need for notification of when there is a breach. In fact, in her paper on the reform of PIPEDA published earlier this year, the commissioner proposed that organizations be required to report breaches “where warranted”. This suggests that the commissioner understands the burden of overnotification and supports an approach that would minimize that burden. That is modernization, not overhaul.

Unfortunately, this is not the approach taken in Bill C-475. The bill would require organizations to report to the Privacy Commissioner every data breach posing a possible risk of harm. The average organization is risk-averse, and will err on the side of caution. I know that from my own business experience. As a result, it is likely that all breaches would be reported under these circumstances, undoubtedly resulting in notification fatigue among consumers. Under Bill C-475, the commissioner would have to assess each incident reported to her and determine whether it poses an appreciable risk of harm, warranting notification to individuals. This would impose a financial and administrative burden on the commissioner's office and would likely limit its ability to deal with other complaints under the act.

In the province of Alberta, where the data breach reporting has been in place for two years, the office of the Alberta privacy commissioner has estimated that the average time to process a reported breach and determine whether notification is required is 76 days. In the case of more complex data breaches, this could be much longer. This indicates that the risk assessment process is complex, difficult, and ultimately costly.

My colleague, the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville, has provided us with much to consider, including some statistics on data breach incidencts. According to my hon. friend, there are 18 privacy breaches every year for every publicly traded company in Canada. We know there are over 3,000 companies traded on the Canadian-based stock exchanges. That would amount to a minimum of 54,000 data breach incidents every year. Given the number of days to assess a single data breach incident, it does not serve the public interest to process each of these 50,000 incidents each year.

Let us remember that the intent is to provide Canadians with timely information about a breach of their personal information so that they can take steps to avoid fraud, identity theft, and misuse of their personal information. I sense the intent of my colleague opposite, but it is not clear to me that my hon. friend has fully considered the administrative and resource implications of dumping this requirement on the Privacy Commissioner's office, and whether it is in the public interest of Canadians to receive so many notifications.

The government is committed to an approach that would require the organization experiencing a breach to conduct the risk assessment based on the sensitivity of the data and the probability that they have been or will be misused. The organization is in the best position to quickly assess the circumstances surrounding a breach of its security safeguards and to determine the risks involved. The government believes that organizations should notify the commissioner and affected individuals of certain breaches, those posing a real risk of significant harm. This allows the commissioner to retain oversight of how organizations are handling the process of risk assessment and notifications to individuals. The commissioner would have the option of initiating an investigation if it were believed that notification did not occur when it was required.

In closing, with appropriate oversight and guidance by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, the responsibility for determining risk and the need for the notification of individuals should ultimately rest with the organization. I hope I have clarified for members the benefits of a more balanced approach to data breach notification. Again, it is modernization, not overhaul.

I hope colleagues will agree that the approach taken by Bill C-475 would impose unnecessary costs and has the real risk to potentially undermine the primary objective for data breach notification, which is that of providing timely information to individuals when there is truly a risk of harm.

Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents ActPrivate Members' Business

December 5th, 2013 / 5:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise, but before I provide comment on Bill C-475, as other members have, I just want to reflect on Nelson Mandela, who is now deceased at age 95.

The world has lost a great leader. Many would argue he was one of the greatest leaders we have seen in the last hundred-plus years. Nelson Mandela served as the president of South Africa between 1994 and 1999. We think about where he came from. He went to jail back in 1962, which happened to be the year I was born. Then in 1990, 28 years later, he was released only because of international pressure from around the world in recognizing Mr. Mandela. He came from that situation to ultimately becoming the president of South Africa and everything that happened in between, such as his significant role in abolishing apartheid.

We have lost a world leader today, an inspiration not to millions but ultimately to billions over the years. It is most tragic. I give my personal very best to all who have been affected.

Dealing with Bill C-475, it is important for us to recognize a few things. First and foremost, the issue of personal information is on the top of many minds. The idea of identity theft is prevalent. We know it is a very serious issue. It happens on a daily basis. Just recently we were talking about cyberbullying, as an example. The technology is out there, and the criminal element is causing a great deal of discomfort for a lot of people in dealing with personal information.

The public as a whole does not believe that the government is doing enough to protect privacy, and the public is watching. This is why I found the previous speaker's comments interesting as he started to outline some of the costs and concerns that he has with regard to Bill C-475

Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents ActPrivate Members' Business

December 5th, 2013 / 5:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, in dealing with Bill C-475, it is important for us to recognize that there are some concerns that should and could be easily addressed by allowing the bill to be sent to committee. I would argue that there is a significant advantage if we allow that to take place. The simple reason is that there is a need for more debate. When we go into committee, different stakeholders will be able to get more of the facts on the record. When we talked about the Privacy Commissioner and the additional workload there, I can respect that. We want to hear what the facts are. We do not want to make it overly awkward, costly, and just not practical in some cases. With Bill C-475, we have an opportunity to move forward.

Members will remember earlier this year when literally thousands of student records were released. There was a huge concern all over the country. There were student loan records that were found to have been misplaced or had fallen into the wrong hands. We know that many people were directly affected by it. The government, somewhat kicking and screaming, had to acknowledge its role in not being forthright in releasing that information.

I believe there is some merit to the bill. When we take into consideration the concern that Canadians have as a whole related to the issue of personal information and wanting to see government doing more, I do not see what we have to lose by allowing the bill to be sent to committee.

I chose to stand up for two reasons. One was to emphasize the point that we should allow the bill to be sent to committee. At the same time, as I indicated at the beginning of my remarks, I wanted to get on the record the passing of a great man, Nelson Mandela. I am sure there will be more formal positions taken by many dignitaries around the world in recognition of this iconic world figure.

With those few words, I am prepared to leave it at that, in the hope that we will see the bill succeed and be sent to committee where we can hear the thoughts of different stakeholders as to what we could be doing to ensure that we are protecting the personal information that people have entrusted to either the government or the private sector. We need to do more. This bill will not necessarily answer all of the problems, but it will at least provide a venue for us to make some changes that could improve our current system.

Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents ActPrivate Members' Business

December 5th, 2013 / 6 p.m.
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NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have a great crowd behind me, because this is a really important bill. There is such a great response. I really want to thank my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville for working on this important piece of legislation. She deserves congratulations for a lot of reasons. It is a great piece of legislation.

My colleague was elected in 2011. She is proof positive than an individual MP can advocate for constituents, give a caucus important advice in a critic role, represent NDP values in a critic area, and make concrete legislative suggestions to the House. The fact that we have such a good piece of legislation before us speaks volumes about her ability to make a difference here in Parliament.

The former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, said that as of 2010, we create more information in just two days than was ever created up to and including 2003. That is an incredible statistic. It is massive. We create about 2,000 years' worth of information every couple of days. That is just one way of measuring how the digital world we live in today is different even compared to just 10 years ago.

Change is happening quickly when it comes to technology, innovation, and information sharing. It is increasingly an issue for Canadians, because in the last 10 years, with the growth of the digital economy, social media, and Internet access, greater amounts of personal data are shared. They are collected, used, and disclosed.

This bill identifies a problem. The problem is that our privacy laws are not built for a digital age when we create and share so much personal information.

PIPEDA was adopted in 2000. I remember it quite well, because I was a law student, starting in 2001, and we talked about what the implications would be for the groups, organizations, and communities we worked with. At that time, there were almost no social networking sites, microblogging sites, or video-sharing sites. Tumblr and YouTube did not exist, and there was no such thing as Facebook. I remember the first time I ever googled something, and it certainly was not a verb at that time.

Now over 18 million Canadians have a Facebook account, including many of us here in the House. A lot of us use this form of social networking. That number of 18 million Canadians is more than half of Canada's population, which is incredible.

Can anyone remember a time when they could not YouTube a viral video or find an old friend on Facebook? It was a completely different world 10 years ago. Now we are light years ahead of where we were in 2000.

What we are talking about here would transform the digital world in Canada. It is the type of change that affects Canadians on a huge scale. As Canadians, we are incredibly connected. We are the second-greatest Internet users in the world. More than 80% of us access the Internet regularly. Approximately 70% of us think that our personal data is less secure and less protected than it was 10 years ago, and 97% of Canadians would like to know when their personal information has been exposed because of a data breach.

It is worth noting these statistics, because most Canadians agree with the goals of this bill. It is absolutely unthinkable that we would expose so many Canadians to risks to their online privacy, especially when many people are aware of and concerned about these risks.

We need to update our privacy laws to recognize these changes and keep up with them; otherwise, we risk leaving Canadians unprotected. Canadians have moved on from 2001. It is time that our privacy protection laws moved on as well.

I would like to stress the importance of taking advantage of the opportunity this bill presents. We know that the Conservatives presented a privacy bill, Bill C-12, that came out of the 2006-2007 review of PIPEDA. However, it has been languishing on the order paper since 2011. That is far too long. Not one but two PIPEDA reviews are overdue.

We need privacy protection for the 21st century, but we also need it in the 21st century. Bill C-475 responds to these pressing challenges for protecting our privacy in a new digital age.

In a May 2013 review of PIPEDA, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada identified pressure points where PIPEDA needed to be changed. The first two of these pressure points, and arguably the most important ones, are addressed in Bill C-475.

The first pressure point identified in the report was enforcement. The report points to the fact that under PIPEDA the Privacy Commissioner is limited to the role of an administrative investigator, and that while she may seek resolution through negotiation, persuasion, and mediation, she actually has no enforcement powers.

The report says:

The days of soft recommendations with few consequences for non-compliance are no longer effective in a rapidly changing environment where privacy risks are on the rise. It is time to put in place financial incentives to ensure that organizations accept greater responsibility for putting appropriate protections in place from the start, and sanctions in the event that they do not. Without such measures, the Privacy Commissioner will have limited ability to ensure that organizations are appropriately protecting personal information in the age of Big Data.

Bill C-475 answers this recommendation in giving enforcement powers to the Privacy Commissioner to order organizations to comply with privacy legislation and to fine them if they refuse to take action within an established time period.

The second pressure point in the Privacy Commissioner's report was to “shine a light on privacy breaches”. It recommended that PIPEDA should:

require organizations to report breaches of personal information to the Commissioner and to notify affected individuals, where warranted, so that appropriate mitigation measures can be taken in a timely manner.

This is really common sense. First of all, we want to know when our personal information has been put at risk. As I said before, 97% of Canadians agree that they want to know when there has been a breach in their privacy. The harm that comes from these breaches can include identity theft, financial loss, negative credit ratings, and even physical harm. We should be aware that we have been exposed to a higher level of these risks when our privacy has been breached.

I will wrap up by saying that the Privacy Commissioner stressed that too often the rights of individuals are displaced by organizations' business needs and that it is becoming increasingly clear that the balance between these rights and needs is no longer there.

I would like the House to know that New Democrats are not stuck in the past. We recognize the imbalance, and with the bill we will take the first steps to make sure to protect the interests of businesses and consumers in the new digital age.

Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents ActPrivate Members' Business

December 5th, 2013 / 6:20 p.m.
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NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would simply like to add my comments to those of my leader and say just how sorry I am to hear of Mr. Mandela's passing. He was always a great source of inspiration for me.

I have always been part of Amnesty International and other groups that defend human rights around the world. In fact, that is one of the reasons I decided to become a member of the NDP, because it is the party that does the most to defend human rights.

For me, Nelson Mandela has always been a beacon of light and hope. I would like to thank him for everything he did for us, for people around the world and especially for South Africans.

With that, I will continue on another topic altogether, that of technology. I really want to begin my speech by congratulating my colleague, the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville. Like me, she was elected in 2011. She is an extremely intelligent and dynamic young woman who has proven that young women have definitely earned their place in politics. She has really proven her willingness to work hard and listen not only to her constituents, but also to all the stakeholders who have an interest in the field of technology and privacy. She consulted them and listened to them, and today she is introducing her bill, Bill C-475. I really do commend her. We are all very proud of her and we thank her for taking this issue so seriously after it had unfortunately been overlooked for so long.

We now know that this legislation has not been updated since 2000. Obviously, a lot has happened since 2000, including Facebook, Twitter, iPhones and smartphones. Technology has drastically changed over the last 13 years, creating a whole new context. We now have to resolve issues that would never have crossed our minds a few years ago.

We have to realize that a number of problems stem from a lack of legislation. This bill aims to solve problems that were ignored for months or even years. The current free-for-all regarding the distribution of personal information is due, in part, to a lack of political will, as well as a legislative void. That is what makes this bill so important.

We cannot continue to do nothing while technology evolves every day. We cannot keep silent and stand idly by while these problems occur.

In fact, my hon. colleague who spoke earlier will rise again shortly to discuss a crucial issue: the fact that people have lost confidence in the system meant to protect their personal information. They have lost confidence not only in companies, but especially in the government, because it did nothing while things kept getting worse.

That is why it is extremely important to restore the public's trust in technologies, in Parliament and in legislation, so that people feel safe at home. This is our job as parliamentarians. When Canadians do not feel safe, it is up to us to do something. Something needs to be done, and it is our job to do it.

This came up in the many consultations, as my colleague pointed out. Unfortunately, 91% of Canadians said they are extremely concerned or very concerned about privacy. That is almost 100%.

I would really like to know what percentage of members of Parliament are concerned. We are all MPs and as parliamentarians we are concerned about Canadians. However, how do we feel as individuals? I would like to do a little survey here and have people tell us honestly whether they are concerned about whether their information is being protected.

For example, seven in ten Canadians reported feeling that they have less protection of their personal information than they did 10 years ago. It is time to ensure that Canadians are and feel safe. This is about feeling safe. We cannot let this situation get worse.

The content of this bill did not come from the NDP alone. It came from the Privacy Commissioner, Internet law experts, consumer protection groups and Canadian citizens, who are, of course, our primary concern. I think it came out of the 2012 study of social media and privacy by the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

Parliament has acknowledged this. People came to testify. This bill is not just a partisan NDP initiative. It means something to all Canadians and will enable organizations, lawyers and the Privacy Commissioner to protect Canadians.

There is no reason the Conservatives should refuse to support this bill. The NDP is not alone in going after the Conservatives about this. Canadians, lawyers and the commissioner want this too. How many people have to tell the government to do something before it actually does something?

This is about giving Canada's Privacy Commissioner the power to enforce the law. That is very important. We know that commissioners have an extremely important role to play in analyzing not only the government's actions but everything that has to do with access to information. Giving the commissioner the power to enforce the law will simply strengthen the essential role she plays in identifying problems and telling Parliament which initiatives should be taken.

I would just like to close by saying that our colleague in the House is speaking on behalf of Canadians and Quebeckers who are worried as well as all stakeholders who are worried and who all say that we need to act now to protect Canadians' information and privacy.

I would like to thank my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville for her work and for conveying the wishes of Canadians and stakeholders to the House.

Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents ActPrivate Members' Business

December 5th, 2013 / 6:30 p.m.
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NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is not easy to speak after hearing the wonderful statements made by the Prime Minister, our leader and the member for Mount Royal. I would like to add my voice to theirs by saying that I am truly saddened by the death of Nelson Mandela. Today we lost a great man and a great symbol of hope.

Despite this, I will still speak to my bill. I am very pleased to close the debate today, although I would like to—and could—talk about it for years and years.

I want to thank all the members who contributed to this debate. Unfortunately, I have to point out that the Conservatives made several erroneous statements that undermined the real debate on Bill C-475. I want to go back to some of those statements today to set the record straight.

The government said it was committed to updating the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. Unfortunately, the government did not even respect the provision of the act requiring a review of this legislation every five years to update it. This review should have been conducted two years ago. Moreover, the legislative amendments made during the first review in 2006-07, have yet to been implemented. The government is therefore not committed to updating the act.

It is shameful that the government is refusing to vote in favour of Bill C-475 and then has the gall to say it is concerned about Canadians' privacy.

As for the concerns about consultations and the provisions in Bill C-475, I would like to point out that we consulted 11 major companies and business organizations that would be affected by the bill and 15 consumer groups and rights and freedoms advocacy organizations from five provinces, including Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. We also consulted 15 of the most well-known and important academics in the domain and we heard from approximately 40 experts who shared their opinions about the implementation of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

Another issue was the size of the monetary penalty companies would be liable to. There is no list of penalties. There is just one: a monetary penalty will be imposed if an organization fails to correct its non-compliant practices as ordered by the commissioner within the time limit. The bill is balanced because this penalty, which cannot exceed $500,000, will be imposed according to a list of criteria that assess the severity of the offence and the organization's ability to pay. I should point out that other countries, such as Germany, Australia and France, have much higher penalties.

My colleagues opposite talked about how the privacy commissioner's role would change and expressed concerns about the commissioner's ability to handle these new demands. Rapid changes in the digital world will change the role of moderators as well. What we are asking for in Bill C-475 is what the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada told the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics it wanted to see.

With respect to the ability of the commissioner's office to deal with the new demands, the commissioner explained in committee, during the assessment of their financial statements, that having the power to issue orders and impose sanctions would produce better results that would be more timely and less expensive for Canadians. During that hearing, the commissioner's office proved without a doubt its ability to adapt its services based on economic constraints, while also increasing the office's efficiency.

However, I must say that suggesting that the commissioner's office is incapable of dealing with the provisions it proposed in committee, and without the benefit of any examination, amounts to completely baseless fearmongering.

Bill C-475 is a balanced bill. It proposes concrete measures to protect people's personal information in the digital age. It gives Canadians greater powers to protect themselves when their information is lost or stolen. It reassures Canadians regarding their engagement on the Internet, which is good for our economy.

Bill C-475 provides incentives to organizations for obeying the law. That it crucial to protecting the privacy of our constituents.

I wish to reiterate my desire to work with the members of all parties in order to make the necessary reforms to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. I appeal to the good judgment of all members to vote in favour of Bill C-475 on December 11.

Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents ActPrivate Members' Business

October 22nd, 2013 / 5:35 p.m.
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NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

moved that Bill C-475, An Act to amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (order-making power), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am having a déjà vu. I feel like I already delivered a speech for the first hour of debate.

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to reopen the debate on an issue that is extremely important for Canadians and our digital industry and that is the issue of protecting personal information.

My Bill C-475 seeks to modernize the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, which has not been updated since the arrival of the first generation of iPod. That is an eternity in a modern and ever-changing society like ours. Several million Canadians have never known a world without smart phones. This legislation that governs crucial aspects of our lives does not respond to the challenges of our time.

As I have already mentioned, we use the Internet every day. We use the Web to socialize, share our ideas with others, work, contribute to the Canadian and global economies, participate in democracy and educate ourselves. The Internet is indispensable to our personal, academic and professional development.

The Internet is central to the lives of both children and adults, who use it for entertainment and as a work tool. However, all of our web activities create a digital information footprint, which makes it even more clear that we need to protect our information.

I would like to share some facts that show how big a role the Internet plays in our lives. Quebeckers and Canadians spend about 45 hours a week online More than 70% of Canadians use it daily. Our citizens have more than 18 million Facebook accounts. The digital economy is a sector that is growing exponentially.

Our democracy is becoming increasingly digitized. One example is petitions, which allow our citizens to speak up and become involved in regional, national and international issues. Canada as a country is firmly plugged in.

We are increasingly managing our lives digitally. Because of this major shift, new rules are needed. These rules must take into account the new risks associated with this shift.

Since the beginning of this year, we have seen what a huge impact the loss of personal information has on our communities, for all citizens, regardless of their vulnerability or level of digital literacy. Millions of Canadians are affected by the loss of information, and this is happening more frequently every year, according to the Privacy Commissioner.

A study published in 2011 showed that every publicly traded Canadian company experiences an average of 18 privacy breaches a year. That is a lot.

Two recent reports revealed that 7 million Canadians have lost $3 billion as a result of cybercrimes. The most common crimes are identity theft and privacy and security breaches. Companies should protect against such breaches.

These reports said that 94% of companies say that they have never experienced a privacy breach. These numbers frighten me. In addition, the more information that is shared on the Internet and our smart phones, the more chances there are that our information could be lost or stolen. This only encourages crime groups in the very lucrative phishing market that have managed to scam thousands of Canadians and steal $76 million, last year alone, through 156 million emails sent from all over the world.

This is an international problem and we have to address it immediately. Unfortunately, the current legislation to protect privacy and Canadians' personal information has not been updated to address these risks and put in place appropriate measures for our society.

The current legislation does not provide for Canadians to be notified of a breach of their personal information. In fact, organizations are not required to notify them, regardless of the seriousness of the breach. This means that they cannot take appropriate action to protect their identity or their credit in order to reduce any harm they might suffer.

Compliance with Canadian legislation governing the sharing of personal information is another major problem in Canada. In 2011, the Privacy Commissioner noted that a quarter of the most-visited websites in Canada do not comply with Canadian law; they disclose our data without our consent. What is much worse is that companies that choose to ignore our laws do not currently suffer any consequences.

For more than 10 years, Canadians have been waiting for a better regulatory framework, and they are rightly expecting results. It is in that spirit that I decided to draft Bill C-475.

I would like to quickly remind my colleagues of the two simple and effective mechanisms proposed by Bill C-475 to enhance the protection of Canadians' personal information.

First off, Bill C-475 requires that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner be notified by any organization having personal information under its control when there is a possible risk of harm to users. Experts in the commissioner's office will assess the seriousness of the situation against a criterion for harm that sets a high standard. They will recommend whether or not the organization should notify the users affected. This mechanism allows for an objective analysis of the risk and better management of the risk through an expectation of a high level of security, rather than a subjective analysis based on the interests of the organization, which may differ from the interests of users.

In addition, objective risk analysis will ensure that users are not bombarded with notifications of data breaches that do not affect them at all or present a minimal risk. Indeed, this framework will ensure that users are not bombarded with useless notifications. They will only be notified after a thorough risk assessment by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. The process will empower Canadians to take steps to protect themselves much more quickly, in addition to reducing the harm done to them.

The second mechanism provided for in Bill C-475 is designed to give the Office of the Privacy Commissioner order-making power when an organization fails to obey the law.

The Federal Court would have legislated authority to penalize organizations that fail to carry out an order issued by the commissioner.

These mechanisms are straightforward and clarify the commissioner's powers. In short, the Office of the Commissioner will now have the power to enforce the law, which unfortunately is not now the case. All too often, the commissioner's recommendations are not being followed, and it is Canadians' privacy that is suffering.

This bill was drafted to address the concerns of Canadians, people in the digital industry, civil liberties organizations, Internet experts and specialists in the protection of privacy, some of whom we heard testify during the study conducted by the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics on social networks and privacy.

Bill C-475 is a direct response to requests from the community to adapt the law to suit our digital age by providing some flexibility for people in the industry and protecting the ombudsman's role of the Office of the Commissioner.

The bill therefore takes a very balanced approach, despite what members opposite said last May. On October 9, information and privacy commissioners and ombudspersons from Canada's federal, provincial and territorial governments met in Vancouver for their annual meeting. They voted in favour of a resolution calling for reforms to address a series of measures they are interested in looking at and supporting, including the key principles in my bill. These measures follow up on recommendations Commissioner Stoddart put forward last May with the aim of modernizing the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act in order to strengthen the authority to enforce the act, including the commissioner's ability to make orders and make it mandatory for organizations to report when information has been compromised.

The bill is also balanced with regard to companies, since clear roles and processes enable them to plan their policies and response. It will be clear for organizations that they are required to report a breach to the Office of the Commissioner, but they will not be responsible for deciding what the ultimate risk is. Companies that are law-abiding will no longer have to compete with companies that are not.

Finally, this bill makes it possible to bring our privacy protection legislation up to the same level as countries such as Germany, Great-Britain, Australia and France, as well as Canadian provinces such as Quebec and Alberta. Canada, as a world leader in technology, must implement international standards. A cross-Canada survey published in April by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, found that 97% of Canadians would want to be notified if the personal information they had given to an organization were compromised. In addition, 80% of respondents would grant more powers to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

The principles defended by my bill have garnered support from all classes of stakeholders affected by these changes, including industry representatives, civil liberties organizations, academics specializing in all areas, consumer protection agencies and even by the Privacy Commissioner and the ombudsman for privacy and information.

This fall, the public consultations I conducted in my riding and the West confirmed the growing interest of Canadians in privacy issues and their support for my bill.

The Union des consommateurs, for example, has stated that:

[it] believes that the implementation of the principles proposed by the NDP, through their private member's bill amending the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, constitutes a real advancement to better protect the privacy of consumers.

Michael Geist, the Canada research chair of Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa said the following:

Bill C-475 is a far better proposal ...Those provisions would do far to ensure a greater respect for Canadian privacy law and give Canadians the assurance of notifications in the event of security breaches.

A few years ago, my colleagues on the other side introduced a bill to modernize the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. Therefore, I know they share my concerns about the privacy of Canadians.

Furthermore, in the Speech from the Throne last week, the Conservatives reiterated their willingness to defend the rights of consumers, and the protection of privacy is a crucial part of these rights.

However, Bill C-12 did not receive the serious consideration it needed in the House, and today its principles no longer reflect the reality of our current needs. Moreover, due to the prorogation of Parliament, Bill C-12 has died on the order paper.

My bill is the most up-to-date bill and the only one currently on the table.

I urge my colleagues across the way to reconsider their position on Bill C-475, not only because it meets the current needs of citizens and surveillance authorities, but also because, if we wait for the reintroduction and re-evaluation of an outdated bill, it will take months or even years. Canadians need to be protected now, and Bill C-475 will help restore their confidence in the companies with which they do business, as well as in our institutions.

Canada has a deplorable record on the international front when it comes to privacy, and the increasing costly attacks on our personal information demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that we cannot afford to wait any longer; we must act now.

Canada's Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, said it best on October 9, 2013:

We live in a world where technologies are evolving at lightning speed and organizations are using our personal information in ways previously unimaginable—creating new risks for our privacy. Our laws need to keep up. Canadians expect and deserve modern, effective laws to protect their right to privacy.

By voting in favour of Bill C-475, my colleagues would be meeting Canadians' expectations. If the members of this House truly care about the privacy of their citizens, they have absolutely no reason to vote against my bill.

If the Conservatives take their commitment to consumers seriously, they must vote in favour of Bill C-475.

I would also like to reiterate that I am willing to work with all parties in order to ensure that Canadians have the protection they deserve in this digital age.

We must work together, as parliamentarians, to better protect the privacy rights of our citizens, our youth and seniors.

Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents ActPrivate Members' Business

October 22nd, 2013 / 5:50 p.m.
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Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to private member's Bill C-475 as presented by my hon. colleague from across the aisle.

Bill C-475 proposes to amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act known as PIPEDA, a law that has been in place for over a decade. PIPEDA has proven its value and retained its relevance in the face of unprecedented technological change.

At its core, PIPEDA gives individuals control over whether and how their personal information can be collected, used or disclosed during commercial activity. This protection fosters trust and confidence in the online marketplace, an important part of the Canadian economy that is growing by leaps and bounds.

The government is committed to updating PIPEDA. In fact, the Minister of Industry met with the Privacy Commissioner only yesterday. However, any changes that are proposed should have been discussed thoroughly with business, consumer advocates and academics or fall within the framework of the existing legislation, as is the case with the former Bill C-12. The proposed new measures put forward in Bill C-475 were not. The proposed amendments in Bill C-475 give the Privacy Commissioner new powers and present a major change to PIPEDA and the role of the commissioner. The impact of such a change on all stakeholders has not been considered.

The Privacy Commissioner's role as defined in PIPEDA is to serve as an ombudsman, a role she has performed impressively to the great benefit of Canadians. Indeed, the commissioner has been internationally recognized and applauded for her success. It was in recognition of this that her term was extended to three years in 2010.

As the commissioner's term enters its final months, the government is pleased to have this opportunity to express its gratitude for the commissioner's dedication to the protection of the privacy of Canadians.

Let us begin by highlighting some of the successes so far. PIPEDA's ombudsman model has proven very successful in setting a high standard for the protection of personal information in Canada. PIPEDA allows for mediated solutions to privacy conflicts that can give both individuals and companies a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities. A less formal dispute-resolution mechanism is far less intimidating for individuals and easier for them to navigate.

PIPEDA's current oversight and redress regime reflects a deliberate decision by Parliament to adopt a mechanism that avoids litigation when resolving privacy disputes. PIPEDA also provides the Privacy Commissioner with a range of powers to address privacy issues. She can investigate, enter premises and compel evidence, mediate a settlement, make recommendations, publish the names of those who contravene PIPEDA and take matters to the Federal Court.

Bill C-475 would give the Privacy Commissioner new, quasi-judicial enforcement powers. Unfortunately, the enforcement regime proposed by the private member's bill is fraught with procedural failings. As my colleagues will note, the bill contains a list of consequences for non-compliance. This includes a monetary penalty of up to $500,000, a very significant amount.

However, should penalties imposed on small firms be as large as those for multinationals? Unfortunately, the bill completely overlooks this matter. The size of the firm or its ability to bear the burden of monetary penalty is apparently not a factor to be considered.

Given the potential severity of the monetary penalty, it is also puzzling to observe that this particular remedy only applies to failure to comply with orders. Indeed, organizations that have been found to wilfully violate the privacy of individuals, including those that have profited significantly from the violation, are not subject to this penalty. They are only penalized if they have failed to change their ways after having been caught. There are many outstanding issues and questions with respect to the enforcement measures that are being proposed in Bill C-475.

PIPEDA already provides the Federal Court with the ability to provide any remedy it deems appropriate, including orders to correct practices, award damages, or order offending parties to publish a notice of corrective action. Clearly, PIPEDA establishes a comprehensive process for taking action against privacy violations. Businesses, both large and small, together with individuals, have found much success in the resolution of their disputes.

We must ask, then, how the proposed enforcement measures are going to affect the level of co-operation that exists between organizations subject to PIPEDA and the Privacy Commissioner. Would the enforcement regime of Bill C-475 change the current dynamic between organizations subject to PIPEDA and the commissioner, making the parties more adversarial and the process counterproductive? These are questions that cannot be taken lightly.

Finally, the implications of these new powers on the structure and resources of the Privacy Commissioner's office do not seem to have been considered during the drafting of Bill C-475. The new powers would place an undue burden on personnel within the Privacy Commissioner's office. One cannot simply add new enforcement powers to a law without thorough study and consideration of the impact on its existing oversight regime or on its regulator.

We cannot support Bill C-475. There are too many omissions and fundamental questions left unanswered in this bill.

In spite of the difficulties with this private member's bill, though, the issue of compliance with PIPEDA certainly warrants further exploration. The government will continue to send a strong message about the importance of complying with PIPEDA, given its critical role in building trust and confidence in the online marketplace. Furthermore, there must be an opportunity for all Canadians with an interest in privacy issues to be comprehensively canvassed and thoroughly heard.

To conclude, the government does not support private member's Bill C-475. Instead, the government remains committed to updating PIPEDA in a more considered and comprehensive manner. Our government will have a balanced approach, one that takes seriously the protection of private information while establishing a regulatory framework that is workable for businesses.

Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents ActPrivate Members' Business

October 22nd, 2013 / 6 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to contribute to this debate today. I listened to the parliamentary secretary speak to the bill. He left out a few interesting facts.

Bill C-12, which was the government's bill, was introduced in 2007. Five long years have passed since then, and the government has not kept its commitment to changing PIPEDA and making the necessary changes. Twice the bill has fallen off the order paper. The government has not been taking PIPEDA very seriously at all.

I commend the member for bringing forward the bill. It would deal with two small measures. First, it talks about reporting the loss or disclosure of unauthorized access to personal information. Where a reasonable person would conclude that there exists some possible risk, the commissioner would have to be notified. The other part would give the commissioner some actual teeth to dig in and fine when personal information is lost.

We, as a government, are falling behind the rest of the world when it comes to protecting people's privacy.

I find it comical that the parliamentary secretary says that PIPEDA has kept its relevance. I am going to quote Commissioner Stoddart with respect to its relevance. She stated:

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.

A lot has changed since 2001, and our PIPEDA legislation just has not kept up.

This is a good start. It would give the commissioner more enforcement powers. Currently the commissioner can only publicly shame a company for breaching PIPEDA. It is time for the commissioner to have the strong enforcement powers needed. Some of that may have been contained in the government's bill, Bill C-12, but that bill has not seen the light of day.

Bill C-475 is with us now. It is something we need to refer to committee. We need to update our privacy laws, and we will be supporting the bill.

Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents ActPrivate Members' Business

October 22nd, 2013 / 6:10 p.m.
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NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to to speak on Bill C-475 on the issue of privacy and digital communications.

The whole privacy issue has been a thorny one for the Conservatives. Last year they had Bill C-30, the online snooping bill, which triggered a huge countrywide backlash. Many Canadians were concerned about that bill because it proposed some very serious invasions of privacy and was an attack on the fundamental rights and freedoms of Canadians.

Privacy is also an issue because increasingly we have seen that many federal government departments, including HRSDC and Indian affairs, have lost personal information they have collected from Canadians. However, the good news for Canadians is that the NDP digital affairs critic, the MP for Terrebonne—Blainville, has been on the job defending the interests of Canadians. We thank her for introducing Bill C-475, which is an excellent response for our times to the issue of digital privacy and personal information.

Bill C-475 responds to a number of calls for greater security for public information. In the ethics committee last year there was a study on social media and privacy, led by the NDP. That committee and that study heard numerous calls from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, legal experts on Internet security, consumer protection groups, and concerned citizens for the need to update the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, a lengthy act that is commonly known as PIPEDA. There are many ways this act can be updated, but the fact is that it has not been updated since the year 2000.

If we think back, the year 2000 was a long time ago, before the era of iPads and smart phones. It was a time when Canadians voluntarily shared much more of their information. Times have changed dramatically, but because our laws have not changed and have not offered Canadians more protection during that period, it is not surprising that more and more Canadians are losing confidence in the ability of the government to be able to protect their privacy when it comes to PIPEDA.

Before going into it in more detail, I will summarize what this bill would do. It would ensure, first of all, that Canadians would be notified if there was a breach in security with respect to their personal information if that breach could cause them harm.

It would also add new strengths to the compliance section. Right now the Privacy Commissioner does not have much in the way of power to enforce compliance, which is unlike the situation in many other countries in the world, so it would bring Canada onto a level playing field with many other countries.

The issue of online privacy is one of growing concern. We are now in the age of big data. Companies are data mining, gathering personal information from a variety of sources, and using it for marketing, for advertising, for personalized ads, for all kinds of measures. There is nothing to protect the privacy of Canadians. There is nothing to protect the personal data of Canadians when there is a data breach that could cause them harm.

What we found in the ethics study of this issue was that there is increasing commodification of this data, called big data, by companies online so that they can do marketing, in which this personal information is often collected, used and disclosed to other parties. The person whose information is collected often does not have any idea that this is even happening. They certainly did not give consent, and it is in violation of PIPEDA.

Throughout the ethics study, there were repeated calls by Internet and privacy experts and civil society groups to empower the Privacy Commissioner of Canada with enforcement powers and to introduce mandatory data breech notification. That is exactly what Bill C-475 would do.

I want to thank my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville for her excellent work on this issue and her tailoring of the bill to really respond to this very recent study in updating this legislation.

Again, what Bill C-475 would do is give enforcement powers to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. It would allow the Privacy Commissioner to order an organization that is found to be in violation of PIPEDA to undertake actions to comply with the act. If they do not comply with the orders within a timeline established by the commissioner, they could be liable to a fine of up to $500,000, as determined by the Federal Court. It is a very serious penalty if they are given the opportunity to comply with the act and fail to do so.

Second, it would introduce mandatory data breach notification where there is possible risk of harm to individuals whose information has been compromised. Individuals must be notified.

If anyone thinks these are by any means radical measures—I am sure they sound like a lot of common sense to Canadians—many other jurisdictions already have such measures in law. Countries such as the U.K., France, Germany and Australia and some provinces have this provision in law. British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec have commissioners responsible for data protection or privacy. They are equipped with enforcement powers to force organizations to comply with the law. It seems like good common sense. These enforcement powers for all of these other jurisdictions include administrative monetary penalties. Canada is behind the times when it comes to PIPEDA and the lack of enforcement and the lack of notification.

What are others saying about this legislation brought forward by our colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville? OpenMedia.ca executive director Steve Anderson said, “We welcome...[the MP's] online privacy bill.... This bill is a useful stepping stone to safeguard our privacy”.

Michael Geist, chair of Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, a renowned public affairs commentator who often has a column in my local newspaper in Toronto, said:

Bill C-475 is a far better proposal.... Those provisions would do [sic] far to ensure greater respect for Canadian privacy law and give Canadians the assurance of notifications in the event of security breaches.

In conclusion, the people I represent in Parkdale—Hyde Park include many young artists, young communicators and people who work in digital media. I have heard many calls for this kind of privacy legislation. It is long overdue, and I would urge all members of the House to vote in favour of Bill C-475.

Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents ActPrivate Members' Business

October 22nd, 2013 / 6:20 p.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to rise today to speak to Bill C-475, which I will support at second reading.

First, I would like to speak to the work ethic of my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville when it comes to digital issues. As the digital issues critic, my colleague has done a lot of work on a policy to better protect our personal information on the Internet. I appreciate the work she has done.

My colleague held a number of public consultations, which is important to note with this bill, since it has been well received by the public. If there is one thing that is very important and that the NDP puts a lot of emphasis on, it is public consultation. I know that most of my colleagues have held their own consultations in recent weeks and months on several issues that affect the Canadian public.

Digital issues, and privacy in particular, are extremely important issues that affect all Canadians. Later on in my speech I will talk about what the people of Alfred-Pellan, in Laval, have told me. It shows a good work ethic to consult the public, and we can create excellent bills that reflect what the public wants.

It is sad to see that, unfortunately, the federal government is not consulting the public about digital issues and our privacy. This issue is very topical and we must take it seriously. That is why public consultation is so important.

Bill C-475 would create modern protections for an issue for which it is extremely difficult to set parameters. I think that Bill C-475 achieves a very important objective: improving protections on the Internet.

The Privacy Commissioner has called for measures to be implemented on many occasions. My colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville included them in Bill C-475.

Therefore, we can say that we are listening to consumers. In fact, the Union des consommateurs supports this bill. I believe that it is very important to point that out. We have to crack down on Internet fraud and abuse. It is really important.

A little earlier, I heard a Conservative member on the other side of the House say that they are on the right track when it comes to protecting consumers and people's privacy on the Internet. Unfortunately, I doubt it. I will not give the Conservatives free reign, especially when it comes to consumer protection. Unfortunately, their record to this point strongly suggests otherwise.

We have a golden opportunity to have all parties in the House, no matter their political affiliation, work together to protect the privacy of Canadians, to all come together to work on a bill that I believe is extremely well researched.

Most people might think that the protection of privacy is assured and that we have a great deal of protection, especially when navigating the Internet. Unfortunately, that is not the case. There are no guidelines and we do not take action against the big companies that will take advantage of the system in order to use our personal information.

In that regard, I would like to talk about a few things that happened to us in Laval this past summer. I went door-to-door a great deal this summer in order to find out about the concerns of the constituents of Alfred-Pellan in Laval. Many issues were discussed during my visits. We talked about this earlier today. Many people talked to me about the Senate and abolishing it, and they told me that it will be a good thing when the NDP government abolishes the Senate in 2015.

People also talked to me about the bill introduced by my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville. In fact, they raised questions about what we were doing to improve people's safety on the Internet. I found that extremely interesting and we had some good discussions about that.

I talked to a young man who is in a relationship and who just bought a house. He was very interested in our policies on Internet protection and not just consumer protection. He was extremely pleased to see that the NDP had a substantive bill on the subject.

During the summer, like many of my colleagues probably, I toured a number of old age homes. People were very happy to see us. We talked about protecting personal information. That is something that is very important to our seniors because, unlike a young woman like myself, they have not been immersed in all things Internet and social media since they were young. Many people do not have access to that and it is all new to them. These are things they have to learn. It can be hard for them to understand. I can see how it might be hard for them to use social networks and to cope with the fast pace of the Internet.

Often seniors tell me that they tend to be trusting and give out their personal information. Unfortunately, there are cases in my riding of people who have lost money and are being harassed because they gave out their personal information somewhere. They suddenly receive information they did not ask for from all sorts of people. It is upsetting to them.

These people were extremely concerned about protecting their information. I talked about this bill with them and they were glad to see that there is a party in the House of Commons that wants to review the rules and cares about their safety and protecting their personal information.

I think it is important that we reach out to them in this case because they are the ones who are affected the most.

My colleague from Chambly—Borduas talked a lot about seniors. I will not elaborate on that, but I will say that we must include them in this process.

As the hon. members for Chambly—Borduas and Terrebonne—Blainville said, the federal government has a responsibility to set parameters without necessarily being too tough. At some point enough is enough. There are ways to go about this that we need to oversee. The government has a responsibility and it must step up to the plate.

I studied what this bill contains in more detail because it addresses so many items. I found that it changed some very interesting things.

I saw that Bill C-475 granted, for example, powers of enforcement to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, which is extremely important.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, the Commissioner called for many changes and measures that we are dealing with right now. Any organizations that refuse to implement these measures within a timeframe set by the Commissioner would risk a fine of up to $500,000, according to a Federal Court decision.

At this time, there are no fines for a company or anyone who abuses on our social networks or the Internet. Putting these guidelines in place today prove that we are serious and we take privacy protection seriously.

There is also the fact that Bill C-475 would make it mandatory to report any data breaches that could harm the people involved.

I believe that this is another important item that we should pay special attention to.

I see that I am almost out of time, so I would like to list the stakeholders that have given us their support. As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville found during consultations that the Union des consommateurs supports our position. Aubrey LeBlanc, president of the Consumers Council of Canada, has come out in support of our position, as has Steve Anderson, executive director at OpenMedia. The National Association for Information Destruction Canada and the University of Ottawa's Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic also agree with our position.

The list goes on and on. I believe that proves, as I said earlier, that we need to work together, tackle this problem, put partisanship aside for once, make the right decisions and support Canadians.

Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents ActPrivate Members' Business

May 23rd, 2013 / 5:30 p.m.
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NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

moved that bill C-475, An Act to amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (order-making power), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is with deep conviction that I initiate the first hour of debate on my Bill C-475, the purpose of which is to bring the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act into the digital age.

I would like to begin by reading from a statement by the Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, released this morning:

“PIPEDA is not up to the task of meeting the challenges of today--and certainly not those of tomorrow”.

It is therefore no surprise that she should have said this, because this legislation has not been updated since the arrival of the first-generation iPod. Matters evolve very quickly in the digital age, and the law is no longer relevant.

Millions of Canadians have never known a world without smart devices. It is an eternity in a modern society undergoing constant change, as ours is.

The Internet is central to our lives, because we use it daily. It is not surprising, therefore, to learn that Quebeckers and Canadians will spend about 45 hours a week online in 2013, that over 70% of Canadians use the Internet daily, and that our fellow citizens have more than 18 million Facebook accounts.

Canada as a country is firmly plugged in. For a few years now, laptops and devices like tablets have been used both recreationally and as working tools. They occupy an increasingly crucial place in our lives. We are moving more and more towards digital management of our lives. This major change means that new rules must be put in place and that they must reflect the new risks associated with these developments in the digital world.

Since the beginning of this year alone, we have witnessed serious losses of data, including data on 52,000 Canadian investors in February and more than 50 million clients of LivingSocial in April.

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada recently stated that breaches of personal data have been steadily increasing in recent years. In that connection, a study by Telus and the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, published in 2011, showed that each public company experienced an average of 18 data breaches a year.

Unfortunately, the current legislation designed to protect Canadians’ privacy has not been updated to address these risks and put appropriate measures in place to protect society. The current legislation does not provide for Canadians to be notified of a breach of their personal information. Organizations are not in fact required to notify them, regardless of the seriousness of the breach. This means that our fellow citizens cannot take appropriate action to protect their identity or their credit in order to reduce any harm they might suffer.

I am referring in particular to our passwords, social insurance numbers, personal emails or even the bank account numbers needed to make online purchases. The sharing of personal information with third parties, without consent, is a major problem in Canada.

In September 2011, the Privacy Commissioner noted that a quarter of the most-visited websites in Canada do not comply with Canadian law; they disclose our data without our consent. This bothers me a great deal, particularly when I think of children, the elderly and people who have not had the good fortune to learn how the Internet works and what the risks are. What is much worse is that companies that decide to do this do not currently suffer any consequences.

For more than 10 years, Canadians have been waiting for a better regulatory framework. They are rightly expecting results along those lines, and it is in that spirit that I decided to introduce Bill C-475. The bill proposes two simple and effective mechanisms to improve protection of Canadians’ personal information.

First, it requires that the commissioner be notified by any organization having personal information under its control when there is a possible risk of harm to users.

Experts in the commissioner’s office will assess the seriousness of the situation against a criterion for harm that sets a high standard. They will also recommend whether or not the organization should notify the users affected.

This mechanism allows for an objective analysis of the risk and better management of the risk through an expectation of a high level of security, rather than a subjective analysis based on the interests of the organization, which may differ from the interests of users.

The process will restore to Canadians the power to take steps to protect themselves much more quickly, in addition to reducing the harm done to them.

The second mechanism provided for in Bill C-475 is based on the Alberta model. It is designed to give the Privacy Commissioner order-making power when an organization fails to obey the law. The Federal Court would have legislated authority to penalize organizations that fail to carry out an order issued by the commissioner.

These mechanisms are straightforward and clarify the commissioner’s powers. In short, the Office of the Commissioner will now have the power to enforce the law, which unfortunately is not now the case.

By providing better oversight of organizations and the use of personal information to which they have access, Bill C-475 gives Canadians an assurance of acceptable risk management and the right to protection of their information. This bill was drafted to address the concerns of Canadians, people in the digital industry, civil liberties organizations, Internet experts and specialists in the protection of privacy.

I had the opportunity to hear a great deal of evidence from experts during a study the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics conducted on social media and privacy from May to December 2012.

Bill C-475 is a direct response to requests from the community to adapt the law to suit our digital age by providing some flexibility for people in the industry and clarifying the ombudsman’s role of the Office of the Commissioner.

Moreover, during many consultations specifically discussing the bill, the same conclusions emerged. The bill therefore takes a very balanced approach. It is balanced with regard to Canadians, since objective risk analysis will ensure that they are not bombarded with notifications of data breaches that do not affect them at all or present a minimal risk. The bill is also balanced with regard to companies, since clear roles and processes enable them to plan their policies and response.

It will be clear for organizations that they are required to report a breach to the Office of the Commissioner, but they will not be responsible for deciding what the ultimate risk is. Companies that are law-abiding will no longer have to compete with companies that are not.

Lastly, the bill makes it possible to bring our privacy protection legislation up to the same level as countries like Germany, Great Britain, Australia and France, or indeed to the level of provinces such as Quebec and Alberta.

As a world leader in technology, Canada should be adopting international standards.

Bill C-475 offers a different vision from that proposed by my colleagues opposite, who in 2007 introduced Bill C-12, which is no longer supported by the Privacy Commissioner. They will probably tell me they have already introduced a bill to modernize the Privacy Act, but I would like to remind them that it dates from 2007 and is absolutely not representative of our day and age, particularly when you consider that technology changes extremely quickly.

Bill C-12 was introduced in the House, but there has been no debate for six years, and its content has therefore become outdated. It certainly no longer represents a serious attempt by the government to modernize the legislation in order to better protect the public. Moreover, a problem with the mechanisms proposed in Bill C-12 to deal with a breach shows that it is completely inadequate.

The risk threshold for notifying the Office of the Commissioner is very low and subjective. This poses two major problems. The first is that because the threshold is low, users and the Office of the Commissioner will be notified less often in the event of a breach.

Organizations could avoid notifying those concerned, which poses a major problem with regard to their security. Nor will they have the power to protect themselves and reduce the potential harm to which they are exposed.

The second problem is that experts testifying before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics explained the need to obtain better data in order to gain a better understanding of the cybersecurity risks Canadians face every day. A low, subjective threshold reduces the data to which they will have access, which makes them less able to advise the government and companies on the risks associated with their practices.

My bill establishes an objective threshold, and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner will be mandated to assess the risk associated with a breach. The interests of Canadians, which we in this House have the responsibility to protect, will be paramount.

Quebeckers and Canadians support the measures and principles in my bill. In April the Office of the Privacy Commissioner published a cross-Canada survey showing that 97% of Canadians would want to be notified by an organization if their personal information was compromised. Note that this is the overwhelming majority. In addition, 80% of respondents would also grant more powers to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. Again, a large majority of Canadians supported these measures.

My bill has garnered support from all classes of stakeholders affected by these changes, including industry representatives, civil liberties organizations, consumer protection agencies and academics specializing in law, communications, cybercrime and political science. I could go on, but there are too many to name them all.

The Union des consommateurs has stated that:

[it] believes that the implementation of the principles proposed by the NDP, through their private member’s bill amending the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, constitutes a real advancement to better protect the privacy of consumers.

Michael Geist, chair of Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa and renowned public affairs pundit, has said about my bill that:

Bill C-475 is a far better proposal.... Those provisions would do far to ensure a greater respect for Canadian privacy law and give Canadians the assurance of notifications in the event of security breaches.

Steve Anderson, executive director at OpenMedia.ca, stated that:

We welcome...[this] online privacy bill because we think it's a tool that can later be applied to protect our privacy against reckless warrantless access to our private information by government authorities. This bill is a useful stepping stone to safeguard our privacy.

Canadians trust us to act in their best interests. They clearly want us to give them better protection. By voting for Bill C-475, my hon. colleagues will be giving them the reassurance of stronger support for their rights and the power to protect their privacy.

Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents ActPrivate Members' Business

May 23rd, 2013 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Parm Gill Conservative 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.

I would therefore urge hon. members to oppose Bill C-475, and I invite the opposition to join us in support of Bill C-12 and move it to committee for detailed consideration as soon as possible.

Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents ActPrivate Members' Business

May 23rd, 2013 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal 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.