Bill C-11: Make it work for us

The government has finally introduced a proposal for long-anticipated reforms to Canada’s private sector privacy laws - and it could revolutionize our privacy rights if they do it right. Bill C-11 promises to give the Privacy Commissioner of Canada enforcement power to charge meaningful penalties to companies that violate our privacy - but right now, broad exceptions built into the bill will let companies and political parties continue to violate our rights.

Tell the government to make this privacy bill work by closing these loopholes now.

Government is going to be working quickly to pass this legislation over the next few months, and we need to respond quickly to get the bill fixed before it is passed. If enough of us message our Member of Parliament, we can have comprehensive privacy protections in Canada that work for all of us.

To: Your Member of Parliament

Send a message asking the government to enhance the privacy protections included in Bill C-11. 

Click here to see message text

Dear [Member of Parliament],

I’m writing to ask for your support in seeing the promise of Bill C-11 fulfilled. As it’s written, Bill C-11 places businesses on equal footing with people, but my rights as an individual over my own personal information should come ahead of businesses’ right to use and profit off that information. 

Bill C-11 is a once in a lifetime opportunity to enshrine privacy as a human right in Canadian law, and rebalance the unequal power dynamic between companies and individual Canadians that has caused so much harm in recent years. From the manipulation of the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal, to Clearview AI harvesting our faces for its facial recognition technology, to Cadillac Fairview’s secret mall surveillance, Canada is facing a rising tide of abuse of citizen privacy and data. In each instance, the personal information of Canadians was taken and used without consent, and without significant repercussions. The enforcement and penalty powers given to the Privacy Commissioner by Bill C-11 will be a big step forward to making our laws enforceable and stemming this tide of abuse - but only if exceptions to its oversight currently built in are removed or tightly limited.

Firstly, I’m asking you to call for the bill to recognize privacy as a human right, of higher inherent standing than business convenience.

Secondly, please support clarification and limitation of the many overly broad exceptions to consent for use of our data currently included in the bill. Without tightening, these exceptions will allow many businesses to continue to ignore our rights and violate our privacy.

Lastly, please support amendment of the bill to include political parties and non-profit organizations in its coverage. We know that political parties are using personal information to inform their campaigning, and the Cambridge Analytica / Facebook scandal demonstrated the negative consequences this can have on our democratic processes. To leave these organizations outside of the scope of this legislation is a major and unjustifiable oversight.

Privacy law reform does not happen often. If we get this wrong, it will be decades before there is another opportunity. When the next privacy scandal occurs, will you be remembered for helping to enact greater protections for Canadians or for standing idly by and endorsing the status quo? Please work with your colleagues to amend this bill and get it right.

Sincerely, 

[Your name]

This campaign is hosted by OpenMedia. We will protect your privacy, and keep you informed about this campaign and others. Find OpenMedia's privacy policy here.

Bill C-11's promise to give greater enforcement powers to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada will transform our privacy rights, but there’s amendments needed to the bill in order to future-proof privacy legislation in Canada. 

Our law should start by recognizing privacy as an essential human right. The European Union took this approach in their General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), and doing so would harmonize our domestic law with international instruments like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, that Canada is already a signatory to.1

No private actors should stand outside our laws. We know that political parties are using personal information to micro-target and covertly influence the behaviour of voters, which can have a disastrous effect on our democratic process. Currently, political parties are not covered by Canada’s privacy laws. It’s time to bring them into the fold.

Along similar lines, non-profit organizations need to be included in Canada’s privacy laws. Organizations like OpenMedia, as a non-profit, are currently not beholden to domestic data privacy rules aside from our commitment to own privacy policy. Let’s close this legal loophole, too. (But don’t worry, we keep your information safe and sound.)

While the enforcement powers with meaningful penalties in C-11 are good, they aren’t going to have enough of an impact if we give businesses very permissive rules about using our personal information. Right now, Bill C-11 provides many contexts for businesses to use our data without consent, including provisions around using supposedly de-identified data. But in an era of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data, these approaches are no longer valid as it’s far too easy to re-identify data.2

With these gaps fixed, Bill C-11 could be the long-term privacy reform we desperately need to defend privacy in our country. So if you haven’t already, send a message to your Member of Parliament asking them to get this right so we can start getting privacy in Canada to work for us. We only have one chance to do this the right way!

Sources

  1. It’s not you, it’s me? Why does the federal government have a hard time committing to the human right to privacy - Teresa Scassa 
  2. Ottawa’s post-hoc privacy plan still leaves the power with Big Tech - The Globe and Mail

Press: Laura Tribe | Phone: +1 (888) 441-2640 ext. 0  | [email protected]