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Source: PrivaTech Consulting

Posted on June 13, 2007

      Jennifer Stoddart recently tabled her annual report on the Personal Information Protection and Electronics Document Act (PIPEDA) in Parliament. The full report can be found here. The commissioner's annual report says the need to take data protection seriously has never been greater, particularly in the aftermath of several large security breaches that were concealed from the public and affected hundreds of thousands of Canadians.

      The commissioner's annual report says the need to take data protection seriously has never been greater, particularly in the aftermath of several large security breaches that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner ("OPC") has been involved in investigating. The report provides a great summary of 2006 cases that came before the OPC as well as those privacy cases heard by the Federal Court.

      The OPC fielded 424 complaints in 2006, up from 400 in 2005. The biggest increases came from the retail and accommodation sectors, which have only been subject to the law for three years. Those which came under PIPEDA earlier, such as financial services and transportation, saw fewer complaints, the report said.Many complaints are settled through mediation and negotiations that satisfy all parties. In 2006, settled complaints made up the biggest proportion of closed complaints. Stoddart stated that the willingness of private industry to settle is encouraging.The OPC released the results of a survey commissioned by the OPC at the same time that the annual report was made public. A total of 1,033 businesses were questioned in the survey, which was conducted by Ekos Research Associates in March.

      The key survey results were as follows:
While the majority of businesses that collect personal customer information have fully implemented PIPEDA provisions (67 per cent), there are a small but not insignificant number that are only in the process of implementing PIPEDA (16 per cent), and others that are not in the process of doing so (15 per cent).Only a third of all businesses report having staff that has been trained about their responsibilities under Canada's privacy laws.The implications of those findings on Canadian consumers are both serious and significant. Stoddart stated that businesses who don't treat the protection of personal information as a priority and don't have rules in place to handle sensitive data are expose Canadians to the risk of having their personal information or identities stolen. These businesses are also at a higher risk of being targeted by hackers looking to exploit personal information.

      In 2006, the number of instances where organizations reported data breaches to the OPC jumped by 41 per cent. This significant increase in self-reporting may illustrate an increased awareness by the private sector of the need to accept the responsibilities that come with maintaining customers' personal information.

      With the start of 2007 being riddled with privacy and security breaches, I believe we will see Canadian companies increasingly invest resources in meeting their privacy obligations, particularly as consumers' knowledge of their privacy rights heightens. Hopefully we will see an increase in the use of privacy training to raise staff awareness of their obligations to protect personal information.

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