News / Ottawa

Privacy bill actually undermines privacy: U of O professor

Canada’s privacy reform law should include stiffer penalties for companies that commit security breaches, according to a University of Ottawa law professor.

But instead the Digital Privacy Act, Bill S-4, leaves a “massive hole” when it comes to protecting Canadians’ personal information says Michael Geist.

As the draft legislation currently stands, Bill S-4 allows telecom companies, Internet providers or banks to share personal information about subscribers – without the subscriber knowing.

“Not only does it really hurt our privacy, but it really runs counter to a lot of things that Canadian courts have had to say about safeguarding personal information,” said Geist on Monday, after speaking at a committee hearing for the bill.

Because security breaches put Canadians at risk of identity theft, Geist said the bill’s penalties should echo the anti-spam legislation (up to $10 million in fines for companies who break the law).

A security breach disclosure law is long overdue, said Geist, but this bill needs fixing.

“They have kind of dragged the puck and delayed privacy laws for almost a decade and suddenly now we’re suggesting there’s an urgency in getting this bill passed,” said Geist.

“If the government wants to prioritize privacy, they can make the necessary amendments to the bill and still get it passed before we get to an election call.”

Following a Digital Privacy Act committee hearing in February, Industry Minister James Moore said he’s open to changes to the bill around company-to-company sharing of personal information.

– With files from the Toronto Star

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