Columns

Press Conference: Meet the Co-Chairs by World Economic Forum (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/JqKwT9

The Foundation of Canada’s Digital Charter: Privacy Law Reform Focused on a Data-Driven Economy

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans last week for a new Canadian digital charter featuring penalties for social media companies that fail to combat online extremism. While the just-released proposed charter does indeed envision increased regulation of the tech sector, my Globe and Mail op-ed argues its foundation is not content-regulation but rather stronger rules on how companies use data. Leading the way is a promised overhaul of Canadian privacy law to ensure it is better suited to the challenges posed by a data-driven economy.

The proposed privacy law reforms seek to strike the balance between supporting an innovation-led economic agenda heavily reliant on access to data with mounting public concern over the use of that data without appropriate safeguards or consent. If enacted – the digital charter includes a detailed background paper on privacy law reforms that suggests legislative action will only come after the fall election – the changes would constitute the most significant privacy law amendments in decades.

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May 22, 2019 4 comments Columns
Mark_Zuckerberg_F8_2018_Keynote, Anthony Quintano from Honolulu, HI, United States [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mark_Zuckerberg_F8_2018_Keynote_(41118883004).jpg

Does Canadian Privacy Law Matter if it Can’t be Enforced?

It has long been an article of faith among privacy watchers that Canada features better privacy protection than the United States. While the U.S. relies on binding enforcement of privacy policies alongside limited sector-specific rules for children and video rentals, Canada’s private sector privacy law (PIPEDA or the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act), which applies broadly to all commercial activities, has received the European Union’s stamp of approval, and has a privacy commissioner charged with investigating complaints.

Despite its strength on paper, my Globe and Mail op-ed notes the Canadian approach emphasizes rules over enforcement, which runs the risk of leaving the public woefully unprotected. PIPEDA establishes requirements to obtain consent for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information, but leaves the Privacy Commissioner of Canada with limited tools to actually enforce the law. In fact, the not-so-secret shortcoming of Canadian law is that the federal commissioner cannot order anyone to do much of anything. Instead, the office is limited to issuing non-binding findings and racing to the federal court if an organization refuses to comply with its recommendations.

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May 2, 2019 7 comments Columns
Privacy Blue by Richard Patterson http://www.comparitech.com/ https://flic.kr/p/25cUnjs (CC BY 2.0)

Rewriting Canadian Privacy Law: Commissioner Signals Major Change on Cross-Border Data Transfers

Faced with a decades-old private-sector privacy law that is no longer fit for the purpose in the digital age, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) has embarked on a dramatic reinterpretation of the law premised on incorporating new consent requirements. My Globe and Mail op-ed notes the strained interpretation arose last Tuesday when the OPC released a consultation paper signalling a major shift in its position on cross-border data transfers.

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April 16, 2019 7 comments Columns
ISED Superclusters

How Canadian Copyright Reform Could Support the Government’s Supercluster Investment

The release of Budget 2019 yesterday again placed the government’s innovation strategy in the spotlight as the government emphasized its significant spending record, including $950 million for the superclusters, $4 billion for science research, $795 million in 31 strategic innovation fund agreements and $2.3 billion for clean technology support. The investments were highlighted in a recently released an innovation scorecard, Building a Nation of Innovators, which takes stock of the government’s efforts over the past three years. My new CIGI policy brief argues that while the benefits from this spending will take years to realize, increased investments in strategic sectors are the easy part of innovation policy.

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March 20, 2019 3 comments Columns
geobloqueo-streaming-europa by portal gda (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/2bs6taB

Flawed Arguments and Inappropriate Analogies: Why Netflix Taxes and Cancon Requirements Should be Rejected

CBC President Catherine Tait recently sparked a firestorm with comments to an industry conference that likened Netflix, the popular online video service, to the British Raj in India and French in Africa, warning about “imperialism and the damage that it can do to local communities.” The comments were rightly criticized as shockingly inappropriate, as if any video service can be reasonably compared to the subjugation of millions.

My Hill Times op-ed notes that some in the Canadian creator community rushed to defend Tait, however, viewing the comments as a strong assertion for Netflix regulation, the creation of a “level playing field”, and the need for all stakeholders to contribute to the broadcast system. Supporters of Netflix taxes and content requirements – who were joined in the Hill Times last week by Sheila Copps – present a vision of Canadian content at risk without regulatory intervention, leading to the loss of Canada’s “authorial voice” from film and television production.

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February 12, 2019 6 comments Columns