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PRIVACY COMMISSIONER SAYS SHE MAY NEED POWER TO FINE

Source: The Wire Report

Posted on January 26, 2011

Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart says the complaints-based system for regulating privacy breaches may not be up to snuff and that her office may need the power to levy fines to get companies to pay attention.

Stoddart made the comments Wednesday in a speech to the Centre for Law, Technology and Society at the University of Ottawa.

The commissioner discussed the priorities of her office as parliamentarians prepare to conduct a five-year, statutory review of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).

PIPEDA, which helps protect data privacy, will be studied at the House of Commons ethics committee.

"I am increasingly of the view that we may need stronger powers to be an effective privacy guardian for Canadians. Canada has become one of the few major countries where the data protection regulator lacks the ability to issue orders and impose fines," Stoddart said.

She said the Federal Court can seek damages from companies that violate PIPEDA, but the court has set a high threshold for damages and invoked them only once in the 10 years that PIPEDA has been in force.

Other jurisdictions, such as the United Kingdom, have the power to impose "substantial fines," she said.

The commissioner came into the spotlight last year with high-profile investigations of Google Inc. and Facebook.

Stoddart said privacy and data protection commissioners internationally are increasingly regulating the same companies that operate across borders.

Following the speech, Stoddart said in an interview that administrative monetary penalties would give her office the power to levy fines.

She added that she does not see a need to invest in more resources for her office.

"We're just starting our second five-year review, so I'm just raising these questions," she said.

The CRTC has also called on Parliament to make a legislative change and empower it with administrative monetary penalties.




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