There’s a fair bit more talk in the United States lately about a national comprehensive privacy law being passed. Peter Lefkowitz published an op-ed in The New York Times about this, and it has sparked some interest globally. Now, whether or not a Trump administration would go down this route is another question, and really no one can predict which way the commander in chief might go on this issue.
But some of my clients that are multinationals with headquarters in the United States have been talking to me lately about what this might mean to them and whether it will have an impact in Canada if it proceeds.
Most of the tech clients I’m working with seem to think that a national comprehensive privacy law that is regulated by an entity like the FTC would work. And this got me thinking about how the FTC already plays an important role in the protection of privacy in the United States. Of course, they do this by regulating against unfair and deceptive trade practices. It can be quite effective at deterring bad privacy practices and, quite frankly, it’s also good at punishing the wrongdoers when they do mess up. Case in point is the expected Facebook finding that is set to come down once the political wrangling is settled.
In Canada, our FTC-equivalent is the Competition Bureau, and it too has the power to regulate over unfair and deceptive trade practices. They also have more meaningful enforcement tools. I’ve always been curious as to why the Competition Bureau in Canada doesn’t work more closely with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to advance privacy-related issues. One example where I thought it was obvious was the Ashley Madison fiasco. That organization actually lied to and deceived people to sign up for its platform prior to its breach occurring. The OPC’s investigation found it to have been less than transparent when it came to the privacy safeguards it had in place. If this had been investigated by the FTC, I’m quite sure the organization would’ve faced more dire consequences than what it ultimately got. But, again, why did the Competition Bureau not see fit to step in a regulate over a privacy issue that affected millions? Just curious idle thinking to ponder on your deck or patio this summer weekend.
More and more, I see competition experts in the privacy space. Will we be seeing more of this and, if so, what are some of the impacts and benefits for privacy in Canada?
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