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.
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 But in an era of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data, these approaches are no longer valid as it’s far too easy to re-identify data.2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!