In the United States, much of the heavy lifting of protecting consumers when privacy issues arise gets done by the Federal Trade Commission. While the state attorneys general also play a relatively large role, it is the FTC that has investigated and fined organizations for being “false” or “misleading” during the collection, use and disclosure of personal information.
The equivalent regulatory body in Canada is the Competition Bureau. For sure, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner is required pursuant to PIPEDA to investigate and report on breaches of that law, but the Competition Bureau seems ready to step into the ring and enforce privacy rights, too. It is purporting to delve in by using the same legal protections the FTC enforce: that organizations cannot be false or misleading in their personal information handling practices.
There’s an interesting Op-Ed in the Globe this week that explains the issues and, subtly, hints that having two regulators doing privacy in Canada may not be such a good thing.
From my point of view, the fact that the Competition Bureau is seemingly prepared to act like its American counterpart is an indication that maybe our privacy laws are simply not up to the task. We, so says the bureau, need to couple them with consumer protection laws to have a more meaningful effect. Plus, these folks get to work with legislation that has teeth. After all, under the Competition Act, organizations can be fined, whereas PIPEDA does not provide the same enforcement tool ... yet.
That theme (our privacy laws being too weak) was repeated in another piece by Teresa Scassa that was published in Maclean’s. Her comments came as part of her analysis of the OPC’s recently released position paper on the right to be forgotten in Canada, something I blogged about last week and that continued to generate quite a stir in the media this past week.
Enjoy this week's articles, and have a great weekend. And for those taking their CIPP/C training with me in Ottawa this coming week, see you soon, and congrats on choosing to take this great privacy course.
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