By Terry McQuay, CIPP, CIPP/C

Annual Report on PIPEDA

On June 3 the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Jennifer Stoddart, submitted to Parliament her Annual Report on the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). The report provided an overview of the activities of her office for the year 2007, and outlined some key priorities for the coming year.

Highlights of the Report:


  • the Commissioner has been urging the federal government to amend PIPEDA to add a breach notification requirement;
  • organizations of all sizes can and must do more to prevent data leaks;    

          o large organizations often underestimate the value of personal information and the risk of identity theft;
          o TJX and other incidents illustrate the need for companies to make privacy and security a top priority.

  • organizations that have not trained their employees are exposing themselves to a significantly increased risk of data breach;

          o  many breaches are due to an employee's failure to follow company procedures.

Self-reported data breaches:

  • organizations voluntarily reported 34 breaches to the Commissioner's office, up from 20 the previous year;
  • organizations often reported within a day or two of the incident;
  • the bulk of these reports came from banking, telecommunications and retail.

Commissioner initiated complaints:

  • the Commissioner has the power to launch complaints, and closed two cases in 2007;
  • SWIFT;

          o  following an investigation, the Commissioner concluded that SWIFT was subject to, but had not contravened, PIPEDA

  • Telecommunications companies;

          o This case involved records purchased from a U.S. data broker which had been obtained from three Canadian telecommunications companies;
          o the investigation concluded that the companies' authentication procedures and staff training were not sufficient to adequately protect customer information or meet PIPEDA requirements.

Privacy audits:

  • the Commissioner has the power to initiate an audit of an organization's personal information handling practices;
  • guidance is provided as to how the Commissioner determines when to conduct an audit;
  • a self-assessment tool is being developed and will be available during 2008;
  • audits of the online identification and authentication systems of credit reporting bureaus Equifax Canada and TransUnion were concluded in 2007.


  • 350 complaints were received during 2007;

          o financial institutions represented 30 percent of all complaints received;
          o telecommunications — 12 percent.

  • top three types of complaints:

          o use and disclosure: personal information being used for purposes other than for which it was collected, and being disclosed to third parties without an individual's consent;
          o collection: usually concerned the collection of information without proper consent or the collection of more information than required for the stated purpose.
          o access: organizations had not responded to requests for personal information or had not provided all of the information to which individuals believe they are entitled.

Key strategic priorities identified by the Commissioner include:

  • identity management:

          o an important focus will be the online world, where personal information is increasingly dispersed across commercial sites, social networks and personal blogs.
          o information technology:
          o technological advances means more personal information can be gathered, stored, analyzed and potentially accessed from anywhere in the world.

  • national security:

          o a growing list of private-sector organizations, for example, airlines, banks and accounting firms, have been deputized to collect personal information for the state.

  • genetic information:

          o genetic testing for employment, criminal matters, research, medical care, access to insurance and to determine family relationships raise significant and deeply sensitive privacy issues.

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


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