Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Privacy Commissioner looks for stronger enforcement powers, ability to levy fines

Today, the Federal Privacy Commissioner appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in its study on social media and privacy. What's most interesting are further statements calling for greater enforcement powers. Apparent satisfaction with being an ombudsman is clearly a thing of the past:

Other countries are moving towards more robust enforcement regimes, but Stoddart said Canada is at risk of falling behind and that the existing law – the personal information protection and electronic documents act (PIPEDA) – is too weak.

PIPEDA is due for a mandatory five-year review by Parliament, and the privacy watchdog said she hopes that MPs will push for greater enforcement powers and greater accountability standards for companies within the legislation.

The legislation currently doesn't require companies to report a privacy breach to Stoddart's office or to consumers, and Stoddart said with barely any penalties for breaching provisions in PIPEDA, there is little incentive for companies to invest in better data protection systems.

If there were stricter penalties for companies that would affect their bottom lines, they would be more inclined to adhere to the privacy laws, she suggested.

"I believe companies take notice … when they are subject to major fines or some kind of enforcement action. We have very limited power in that regard, and I believe more respect would be shown to Canada's laws if we did have that power," she said.

For more details, see CBC's coverage: Social media websites ignoring privacy laws, watchdog says - Politics - CBC News.

You can see the video of Jennifer Stoddart's testimony here and I'll post a link to the transcript when it's available.

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