Thursday, October 20, 2005

Privacy Commissioner considers USA Patriot Act / Outsourcing complaints against Canadian bank

Not too long ago, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce gave the users of the bank's Visa card notice that processing of account information may take place in the United States, which would make the information accessible to US law enforcement and intelligence officials. This caused a relatively minor stink in the press but did result in a number of complaints to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Today, the Assistant Commissioner has released her finding related to these complaints and has found that there is nothing in PIPEDA which prevents oursourcing such as this or that requires getting consent for the processing of personal information by third-party service providers. There was some question of whether CIBC appeared to offer an opt-out option. With respect to the cross-border outsourcing issue, there is again no requirement to get consent from the customer. The company has to use contractual means to make sure that the information has a comparable level of protection, but the existence of the USA Patriot Act doesn't mean that you can't have comparable protection in the US. (Canada has similar legislation that has garnered less attention.) Personal information is equally vulnerable to disclosure to law enforcement, whether it is located north or south of the Canada-US border.

The Assistant Commissioner did state that companies that do outsource the processing of personal information are under an affirmative duty to inform their customers. While the customer cannot "opt out" of the outsourcing, they can choose not to do business with the company.

Read the full finding here: Commissioner's Findings - PIPEDA Case Summary #313: Bank's notification to customers triggers PATRIOT Act concerns (October 19, 2005).

Michael Geist has a comment here: Michael Geist - Canadian Privacy Commissioner Denies PATRIOT Act Complaints.

CIPPIC also has a thing or two to say: Privacy Commissioner OKs outsourcing to US.

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