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The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada defines the right to privacy as: “The right to control access to one’s person and information about oneself.”
Privacy is a fundamental right and is protected by several laws. Apart from federal laws, supranational organizations such as the United Nations, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the European Union have established laws respecting a individual’s privacy. One must be aware of the scope of the legislation to determine your rights and obligations.
The visitor to the website should be informed about the collection, use and disclosure of his personal information, including:
Personal information is any factual or subjective information, recorded or not, about an identifiable individual. Personal information includes:
Personal information does not include:
Note that this definition of “personal information” is current to Canadian Law as at June 1, 2005. If your business or organization deals with other countries, there might be differences in the definition due to other laws.
Privacy is a fundamental right. Two federal laws protect Canadians: the Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). The Privacy Act imposes obligations on government departments and agencies to respect the privacy rights of Canadians by placing limits on the collection, use and disclosure of personal information. The Privacy Act gives Canadians the right to access and correct personal information about them held by federal government organizations.
PIPEDA covers the collection, use and disclosure of personal information in the course of any commercial activity within the provinces, including provincially regulated organizations. PIPEDA impacts the federally regulated sector in the course of commercial activities and all businesses and organizations engaged in commercial activity in Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, as well as, information sold across territorial and provincial boundaries. Also, the personal health information collected, used or disclosed by these organizations is protected.
Specifically, trust is very important in all kind of relationships, especially to developing positive public relations. Further, it is a competitive advantage over other businesses who do not explain their procedures of dealing with personal information.
The law requires organizations to:
There are some exceptions to these requirements. For example, an organization may not need to obtain a person’s consent if collecting the information is required by law. During an investigation, an enforcement agency is not required to obtain consent because obtaining consent might compromise the accuracy of the information.
PIPEDA does not impact:
Here is a summary of the principles required by your organization to implement the law and what kind of information and details should be part of the policy:
Your organization recognizes its responsibility for the management of personal information according to the 10 principles. You must designate an individual who will be accountable for compliance and developing procedures and policies.
2. Identify the purpose
Your organization must demonstrate the purposes for the collection of personal information. The reasons for collection and use must be obvious for the public before or at the time of collection. Attention should be drawn to the consent and the reason for collection using a bold font or checkbox for example.
3. Obtain Consent
Your organization must proclaim that it obtains the consent before or at the time of collection, use or disclosure of personal information. More importantly, your organization does not try to obtain consent by deceiving the public.
4. Limiting Collection
Your organization shows a commitment to limiting collection of personal information from several points of view. You are required to supply customers with products and services even when they only give consent to collect the information needed to complete your business. Your organization does not deceive or mislead individuals about the reasons for the collection of information.
5. Limited Use, Disclosure and Retention
Use, disclosure and retention of personal information must be limited. Except where it is required by law, personal information should not be used, disclosed and retained without the consent of the person.
Your organization should keep personal information as accurate, complete and up-to-date as necessary for the identified purposes for which it was collected.
Your organization should demonstrate that personal information is safeguarded appropriately given the sensitivity of the information. Personal data must be protected from unauthorized access, disclosure, copying, use or modification. This may mean locking up files or limiting access to databases by password.
9. Individual Access
Your organization must allow individuals access to their personal information held by your organization. Moreover, an individual must also have the ability to correct inaccurate or incomplete information.
10. Challenging Compliance
Your organization must demonstrate that you have developed a simple and easily accessible complaint procedure. You must inform the complaining individuals about the steps taken by the company. Finally, you must correct procedures and policies as required.
You must inform a person how long their personal information will be retained. Further you must inform a person about procedures after it is no longer necessary to retain their information. You should detail how you destroy the files or erase the information.
The process of compliance is time consuming. First, analyze all of the processes in your organization dealing with personal information. Then, create a policy according to law. Eventually transfer the policy into the day-to-day operations of your organization. Procedures related to personal information may be adjusted. Staff must be trained. Finally, persons accountable and in charge for answering requests should be selected, so that your company meets all of the requirements of law.
A failure to comply can expose your firm to a number of costly, time-consuming and potentially embarrassing circumstances. PIPEDA makes the federal Privacy Commissioner responsible for promotion and for ensuring compliance with the Act. The Commissioner has five main ways of ensuring that organizations subject to the Act adhere to its principles:
An individual may complain to the organization in question or to the Privacy Commissioner about any alleged breaches of the law. A person who believes that anyone has contravened or intends to contravene, sections 5 to 10 of PIPEDA, may notify the Privacy Commissioner. The person may ask that his or her identity be kept confidential. Once the Privacy Commissioner has given his assurance, the Commissioner is bound to protect the person’s identity.
The Privacy Commissioner may also initiate a complaint. A complaint will prompt an investigation and the preparation of a report.
After receiving the Commissioner’s investigative report, a complainant may, under certain circumstances, apply to the Federal Court for a hearing. The Privacy Commissioner may also apply to the Court on his own or on the complainant’s behalf. The Court may order an organization to change its practices. Of course, legal fees to defend could be very large and the Court may award costs to the Privacy Commissioner; altogether an expensive outcome.
The Privacy Commissioner may, on reasonable grounds, audit the personal information management practices of an organization.
An audit or complaint that results in a public report about breaches of compliance at your organization could be damaging to your reputation.
It is an offence to:
A person is liable to a fine of up to $ 10,000 on summary conviction or up to $ 100,000 for an indictable offence.
Nevertheless, you should be aware of the risks involved in preparing the policy on your own:
Advantages of consulting a lawyer are:
Beginning January 1, 2004, PIPEDA has applied to all collection, use or disclosure of personal information that occurs in the course of commercial activities of Canadian organizations, including across an international border. Hence, organizations will be required to apply the principles of PIPEDA to these transactions also.
Certain countries or regions have implemented privacy laws that impose privacy protection rules on international trade. For example, the European Union Data Protection Directive, which applies to all European Union (EU) member countries, allows only the transfer of personal data to countries that provide an adequate level of privacy protection.
Directive 95/46/EG, a decision of the European Commission on December 20, 2001, has recognized PIPEDA as providing adequate protection for the transfer of personal information from the EU to Canada. It allows the flow of personal information between the EU and Canada without additional guaranties.
PIPEDA states that organizations are responsible for personal information that has been transferred to a third party for processing. According to Principle 1 in the Act, the organization is accountable for using contractual or other means to ensure that a comparable level of privacy protection will be provided while the information is being processed by the third party.