Privacy legislation: Battle far from over

The federal government's long-awaited and much-debated Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, Bill C-6, comes into force Jan. 1....

The federal government’s long-awaited and much-debated Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, Bill C-6, comes into force Jan. 1.

While the new legislation imposes strict new rules that companies must follow when collecting and using personal information – including gaining positive consent from each consumer at the time such information is gathered – the law is very close to what the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) had lobbied for.

So, does this mean that the CMA can now check ‘privacy’ off its to-do list and move onto its next challenge?

Not exactly, says CMA president and CEO John Gustavson, who points out that every province in Canada (with the exception of Quebec, which introduced its own privacy law in 1994) is in the process of deciding whether to develop its own privacy legislation or adopt the federal model. As might be expected, Gustavson says, most of the provinces seem to be leaning toward developing their own, a prospect that obviously doesn’t fill him with joy.

‘Our job is to make sure the legislation is consistent across the country, so we don’t end up with 10 different marketplaces with 10 different privacy rules,’ he says.

And, that’s not the end of it. The new federal law is scheduled for automatic review after five years, an occasion for which the CMA is already preparing.

The CMA, Gustavson says, ‘must ensure that the current act is working and that consumers are satisfied with it. Otherwise, there could be a much more difficult legislative scheme coming at us in five years.

‘We have a huge job ahead of us for the next few years,’ he says.

(For full details regarding the new Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, visit the Privacy Commissioner of Canada Web site at www.privcom.gc.ca).