Monday, February 02, 2004

Articles: Federal privacy law is a dog's breakfast & CANADA badly needs a national standard

Today's Toronto Star has two columns about PIPEDA that bear a close read. The first one is by Richard Owens of the Centre for Innovation Law at the University of Toronto, is a critique of Michael Geists' earlier article (referred to below): "Federal privacy law is a dog's breakfast":

"The costs of the Quebec government's constitutional challenge to the federal privacy law are too high, Michael Geist argued in his Jan. 19 column in this newspaper. He fears the consequence, that the law may be struck down and replaced with a patchwork of provincial laws. But are those costs really too high? There are several good reasons to doubt it. The federal legislation does its job poorly; provincial legislatures might offer legislation that does the job better; and the structure of the federal legislation itself encourages a patchwork of laws. "

The Star also has a surrebuttal by Michael Geist: "CANADA badly needs a national standard":

The costs associated with privacy protection have long been a source of considerable debate. Ann Cavoukian, Ontario's Privacy Commissioner, who together with the Toronto Star's Tyler Hamilton wrote The Privacy Payoff, maintains that good privacy practices are actually good for business.

In my column of January 19, I argued maintaining a federal privacy law was essential since the provincial mish-mash of laws that would fill the void would create uncertainty and costs for the business and privacy communities.

Some remain unconvinced, however, as Professor Richard Owens illustrates in his response that accompanies this article. Far from a business opportunity, Owens writes that the federal government's Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) is a costly endeavour that "rob[s] businesses and shareholders of value for no good reason, but for the legislators' inattentiveness.''

While perhaps Owens and I can agree to disagree on PIPEDA's cost implications, his response to my column makes historical claims that demand further discussion.

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