A friend of mine, Murray Long, the person some of you will recall is responsible for starting PrivacyScan, recently posted something on a listserv I participate in that I thought would be interesting to share. It relates to Bill S-4, the Digital Privacy Act. I’m going to quote most of it from him, but in a few places I've edited for length:
Re: Read this and weep
I don't know what Machiavellian machinations go on behind the scenes in Parliament, what secretive deals get made, how MPs or Senators vote at times to arrange an outcome. All of the following may have been an innocent mistake—or not.
However, when the Senate was reviewing Bill S-4, during the clause by clause debate to arrive at the final wording of the Digital Privacy Act, Senator Furey (Liberal) proposed an amendment that would have removed the proposed new clauses in the Act that would permit companies to disclose personal information without knowledge and consent for the purposes of investigating a breach of an agreement or a contravention of the laws of Canada or a province, and to detect or suppress fraud or prevent fraud …
The senator also proposed new clauses … that would have required the notification to the individual of all disclosures made, without knowledge or consent, within 60 days of disclosure, and regular reports to the privacy commissioner of such disclosures.
Both these amendments were extremely important ones to meet the transparency requirements on nonconsensual disclosure that privacy advocates have been pushing for and also to deal with copyright trolling lawsuits and other cases where companies will be allowed to disclose personal information for breach of contract or similar reasons. Michael Geist has written extensively about the copyright trolling issue. Here's the part that will make you weep. When it came to voting on Senator Furey's proposed amendment, a roll call vote was taken ...
The vote was tied 4 to 4. The chair then explained that they would vote in support of the amendment. However, another senator objected, claiming that the chair had already abstained and therefore could not vote to break the tie. For some reason, everyone seemed to agree with the objection and the important amendment died.
I agree with Murray that this seems to be a rather unfortunate way for such an important amendment to die. As Parliament debates Bill C-51, the anti-terror law, let's hope that it considers changes being proposed by privacy advocates and that when (and if!) it does, silly things like this don't get in the way of meaningful change.
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