Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to the members of the committee for calling us and providing us with an opportunity to speak on a fascinating issue before you today.
This is a very important topic for Canada. I very much think it behooves the committee to examine its complexities, and it's to your credit that you're doing so.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has long followed the debates about privacy in cyberspace. Last year, delegates at our annual policy convention passed a resolution called “Private Sector Privacy”, which speaks directly to the issues you will be discussing here. When I'm finished my statement, Mr. Chairman, I'll provide that to the clerk in both official languages, if you'd wish to have it in the record.
The key sentence of the resolution, however, for this committee might be the one that states:
PIPEDA allows for an effective and workable balance between...protecting an individual's personal information and allowing business to operate....
Surely, that's the issue most central to your deliberations.
This is a very significant attribute for legislation in such a fast-moving sector of the economy and one that we should be careful about disrupting.
I would encourage you, as you begin your work, to heed the advice given to doctors, “First, do no harm”.
Social media and privacy, obviously, are very much in the news these days. This is understandable, because millions and millions of Canadians and hundreds of millions of people around the world are using new technologies and social platforms, and sharing information about themselves. That, of course, raises important questions about privacy and policy.
I want to make two brief remarks in my comments. The first is that the rules for privacy in Canada are well-known, they are well understood, and in my estimation they work. They have adapted remarkably well in the digital world, and they provide quite strong protections for Canadians. It's a tribute to the people who drafted a law years before anybody knew about Facebook, Foursquare, or Twitter that their work is still relevant and helpful to us today.
Secondly, social media is experiencing a very dramatic growth. It's attracting millions of dollars of investment in Canada's digital economy and is creating thousands of jobs in Canada. These can be very high-quality and well-paying jobs. So while it's entirely appropriate for the committee to be attentive to concerns about privacy, the committee's review, in my view, should be in the context of highly successful innovations that are serving an ever-growing population. My summary there would be that social media is a good news story in Canada.
Canadian privacy law works. It does protect consumers.
More than a dozen years ago, when PIPEDA was passed, the law was intended to be technology neutral. I think it should be understood as a statute that was designed to encourage business online, experimentation and innovation, while providing consumers with considerable choice about how their information would be collected, used, and disclosed.
PIPEDA is based on the important concept of reasonableness, which sets a baseline for businesses and the expectations of Canadian citizens. Collection, use, and the disclosure of personal information has to be reasonable in the particular circumstances. Not every law is like this, but this one has stood the test of time.
Circumstances obviously evolve. The framework in which PIPEDA is applied similarly evolved to take into account how citizens and businesses are participating in the online world.
The Chamber of Commerce, then, is of the opinion that there is nothing in social media that stretches PIPEDA to the breaking point.
We've had almost a dozen years of experience with the current rules, and we have found that innovation can take place under the umbrella of its flexible and principled regulation.
The true potential of the Internet is a level playing field on which Canadian businesses can compete globally but is one that can be retarded by excessive regulation and ultimately would come at the cost of Canadian jobs.
I would like to tell you, just quickly, about a couple of companies, a few companies, that are operating in this space and about the jobs that we've seen created. I'm doing this partly because our preoccupation with the Internet is always with monster companies that are household names, and many of those are members of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and I'm glad to have them. But there is a story that is not often told to tens of thousands of Canadians in ridings all across the country whose livelihood depends on social media.
HootSuite was founded by an entrepreneur in Vernon, B.C. It makes a social media dashboard that aggregates information from a lot of different sources. HootSuite was an official partner for Google and Pages launched last year. HootSuite has attracted a blue chip list of clients, including the White House, Dell computers, and Disney. I wouldn't be at all surprised if many of your campaign managers were using it to connect with constituents during elections.
HootSuite has received more than $20 million in direct investment and is seeking another, I think, $50 million. It is a home-grown company that's now worth close to half a billion dollars and it employs 140 people.
Radian6, a start-up in Fredericton, was one of the powerhouses in social media. Now it has offices in New Zealand, the United States, and the U.K. Their products enable companies to understand what's being said about them on the Internet and across a range of social media. They've received millions of dollars in investment and they've hired hundreds of Canadians. Radian6 was bought by an American company last year for $326 million, but it's just as strong as it's ever been in Canada, and it's continuing to hire more people.
Until I prepared for this testimony, I had never heard of a company called Bight Interactive in Charlottetown, but Bight saw the potential for online social gaming and authored a game called Trade Nations, which is played by thousands of people around the world via Facebook. Bight Interactive was recently acquired by one of the largest video companies in the world, thereby injecting significant capital into Prince Edward Island.
A final example here is Frima Studio, which was founded in Quebec City in 2003 by three entrepreneurs who wanted to make video games. It was a very humble beginning in a single studio apartment where they were living. But Frima has created games more recently for Hollywood brands like Harry Potter and Looney Tunes, and their growth has been so significant they've opened a second studio. What I like about the cyber world we live in is that the second studio is in Matane, on the Gaspé Peninsula. We're very geographically indifferent in the modern world. With 265 full-time employees, Frima has been at the forefront of this trend toward social gaming. They've created a lot of quality, high-paying jobs in Canada, and among their many dozens of titles are multi-player social games and a lot of educational and training games. Training is a big preoccupation with them now.
We see social media experiencing a lot of dramatic growth, attracting millions of dollars of investment in Canada's digital economy, and creating thousands of jobs. Instrumental in this is encouraging the entrepreneurial work of Canadian innovators who are able to build these businesses to the global stage.
I started my statement by complimenting the committee for taking on this challenging topic. I certainly realize you have a responsibility to address concerns about the privacy of Canadians, but I would ask that you approach your work with a positive view of a fascinating sector, which is creating value for consumers and jobs for Canadians at an astonishing rate.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.