Canada is moving in the right direction on data privacy: Interac’s Colette Stewart

Broad concerns have prompted feds and several provinces to enact laws in recent years: Stewart

Canada is moving in the right direction on data privacy: Interac’s Colette Stewart
Colette Stewart, Interac Corp

While Canadians are apprehensive of the security of the personal information they share online, Canada is moving in the right direction on data privacy, says Colette Stewart, enterprise privacy lead and managing counsel at Interac Corp

According to a survey Interac executed in January, 77 percent of Canadians said their personal data is more exposed than ever before. Seventy-two percent said they are concerned companies have access to too much of their data. Only 40 percent are confident they can protect their personal information online.

“Our survey showed us that Canadians are dissatisfied with the status quo for data privacy and lack confidence in their ability to protect their personal information,” says Stewart. “Canadians are concerned about their data as they participate in the digital economy.”

With the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), provincial privacy legislation in Alberta, BC, and Quebec, and new laws currently under consideration, she says the concerns of survey respondents are not falling on deaf ears.

In 2022, the federal government introduced Bill C-27, the Digital Charter Implementation Act, which contains three proposed acts: the Consumer Privacy Protection Act, the Personal Information and Data Protection Tribunal Act, and the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act. With the legislative package, the Liberal government said it aims to toughen the federal private sector privacy regime and facilitate the responsible development of AI.

Ontario enacted privacy protections in Bill 188, the Economic and Fiscal Update Act, giving the province’s privacy commissioner new authority to impose penalties on Personal Health Information Protection Act violators.

Quebec is rolling out its new privacy law, Bill 64, under which the first batch of amendments came into force in 2022. The fourth and last batch of amendments will come into force next year.

“We feel as though the modernization of privacy law is moving in a solid direction,” says Stewart.

She says Canadians are also optimistic about the potential for open banking to protect their personal data. Open banking is a system where people and businesses can securely transfer financial information between financial service providers without providing the login information for their bank. Two-thirds of survey respondents would welcome the prospect of open banking to allow them more control over their financial data. According to Stewart, the respondents were also attracted to the ability to securely access and share personal financial data with financial services providers and revoke consent to prevent the sharing of their information.

In its 2023 Fall Economic Statement, the federal government announced it plans to introduce legislation for a Canadian framework for open banking.   

According to Interac’s survey, 80 percent of the survey respondents desire greater control over online information and how it is shared. An overwhelming majority – 87 percent – said Canadians should be able to require organizations to delete their personal information at their bidding.

Survey respondents told Interac that the terms and conditions around consent are too complex. Fifty-nine percent said they cannot clearly consent to how their personal information is shared because they do not understand what they are agreeing to. Sixty-five percent said that was because of the vague language describing data usage.

Stewart began her career practising in technology, corporate finance, and M&A at McCarthy Tétrault. She has advised companies in the retail, transportation, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications industries.

Recent articles & video

Exclusion of casino managers from Quebec’s labour regime constitutional: SCC

Yukon Supreme Court orders release of student contact information in class action lawsuit

Ontario Superior Court rejects worker's psychological impairment claim from a workplace injury

BC Supreme Court clarifies when spousal and child support obligations should end

Federal Court of Appeal rejects employee's complaint of union's failure to fairly represent him

Alberta Court of King's Bench rejects Calderbank offer in medical negligence case

Most Read Articles

BC Supreme Court upholds mother’s will against son's claims for greater inheritance

BC Supreme Court clarifies when spousal and child support obligations should end

Federal Court approves $817 million settlement for disabled Canadian veterans

2024 Canadian Law Awards Excellence Awardees revealed