By Terry McQuay, CIPP, CIPP/C

Federal Privacy Commissioner Looking for Discretion in Handling Complaints

The Federal Privacy Commissioner in a letter dated January 15, 2008 to Industry Canada responded to its consultations regarding the review of the Personal Information Protection and Elec-tronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) expressing the desire to be able to take a more proactive approach to addressing key and systemic issues through research, public education, and Commissioner initiated complaints and audits. Ongoing lengthy delays in the handling of complaints are stated to consume resources and frustrate efforts to shift focus and deal with major privacy threats resulting from rapidly advancing information technologies affecting society as a whole.

The Commissioner noted that:

  • The UK Commissioner recently requested from the British Parliament the right to investigate only when an issue is in the public interest
  • The Federal Trade Commission does not accept complaints from individuals but uses them to track systemic issues that warrant its attention
  • Canadian legislation, including the Quebec Private Sector Act allows Commissioners to refuse or cease to examine a matter if it is frivolous, made in bad faith, could be dealt with in another forum or where further investigation would serve no useful purpose

The Commissioner is requesting that the government permit her office to use greater discretion on the front-end to refuse complaints and/or discontinue them if their investigation would serve no useful purpose or are not in the public interest. As a result, investigative resources would be redirected to those privacy issues that are of broader systemic interest.

Terry McQuay, CIPP, CIPP/C, is the Founder of Nymity, which offers Web-based privacy support to help organizations control their privacy risks. Learn more at www.nymity.com.


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