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Canada Dashboard Digest | Notes from the IAPP Canada, July 24, 2020 Related reading: Researchers identify vulnerability of internet-connected cars

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This week, the IAPP’s managing director for Canada is on holiday — we do let Kris out occasionally — and it takes two of us to fill in for him, so from Constantine and Dustin, this is the week’s recap on privacy in Canada.

We are facing unprecedented changes and reevaluation of the status quo during this pandemic. Privacy concerns over contact tracing have been brought into popular discussion, and we can anticipate increasing expectations on privacy in Canada.

While Canadians were reminded of the ever-present risk of international breaches impacting them with the most recent Wattpad and Blackbaud data breaches, the reverberations from the "Schrems II" decision also continue to be felt. British Columbia Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy joined the chorus in warning that an update to our laws is likely required to continue doing business with the EU.

Quebec, as Kris noted last week, has taken the lead in addressing our gaps by introducing Bill 64 to modernize its privacy legislation, including a mandatory requirement for privacy officers in organizations, emphasizing the grand Canadian principle of accountability. One has to wonder if Canada will experience the same shortages in qualified privacy professionals that the EU did prior to and after the General Data Protection Regulation came into effect.

And despite the perceived weaknesses of our laws, Canadian commissioners continue to take the lead in providing guidance in our new pandemic-driven world. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada participated in an international joint statement on the use of video-conferencing technology services, Saskatchewan’s commissioner also supported sharing COVID-19 infection numbers in smaller communities where there was no risk of identification, and Ontario’s commissioner just released helpful guidance for public sector organizations on work-from-home initiatives. The territory of Nunavut’s first privacy commissioner, Elaine Keenan Bengts, is retiring in November and reminded Canadians how privacy and access laws keep governments accountable and protect democracy. 

Often it seems Canada’s reputation in privacy stems not so much from our laws, but the people we have been lucky enough to serve in the role of privacy commissioners across our country. Despite their restricted powers, our commissioners have had a global and powerful influence, and it is time to heed their calls for substantive change.

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