Privacy Laws need constant updating

For the London Free Press - July 18, 2011 - Read this on Canoe The Canadian privacy commissioner, in her 2010 annual report to Parliament, commented on what she believes to be the future of privacy law in Canada.

Jennifer Stoddart mentions three things that need to happen for Canadians to secure a future that is private. They are enforcing privacy laws and ensuring they remain modern and relevant, increasing co-operation between privacy authorities and ensuring that privacy literacy matches our online literacy.

With respect to modern legislation, the privacy commissioner posed the following question: "laws designed for a bricks-and-mortar world up to the task of protecting privacy in the online context?"

The privacy commissioner views it as crucial to the future of Canadians that privacy laws are constantly updated to meet current and future challenges. The drafters of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents (PIPEDa) - which is the cornerstone of Canadian privacy law - created the legislation in a way that mandated a review of the act by Parliament every five years. The first review occurred in 2006. The next review is scheduled to begin in 2011.

Perhaps the most interesting recommendation arising from the report is not something from the commissioner herself, but rather from two legal scholars involved in the preparation of the latest PIPEDa review.

The scholars - Sossin, dean of Hall law school, and Prof. France Houle of the of Montreal - recommended the office of the privacy commissioner should acquire limited power to make orders, including the ability to impose penalties such as fines. They also proposed explicit guideline-making power to assist with the fair and transparent implementation of new order-making powers. This controversial suggestion would significantly increase the power and authority of the privacy commissioner and will no doubt be the subject of debate during the 2011 review.

The increased popularity of the commissioner over the years is remarkable.

The commissioner opened a second office in 2010 in Toronto. The office is targeted at the business, industrial and academic sector located in the GTa. The office of the privacy commissioner determined that almost 44.5% of respondent organizations were located in Toronto or in the GTA.

The privacy commissioner's office received 200 requests to present speeches and attended and delivered 150 speeches and presentations in 2010. The commissioner also received more than 250 media requests; launched a blog, youth website and youth blog; sent out 700 tweets and attracted almost 2,000 followers on Twitter.

It is ironic to note the privacy commissioner uses various types of social media - such as Facebook and Twitter - to warn Canadians of the privacy dangers of using social media.

Even in the digital age, the paper publications of the privacy commissioner have remained quite popular. The office distributed almost 15,500 publications in 2010 - including pamphlets, guidance documents, fact sheets, guides for businesses and individuals and annual reports.