Canada: The Sensor: Building A Privacy-Compliant Autonomous Vehicles Business

Canada's Privacy Commissioner, commenting on the House of Commons TRAN report on automated vehicles in May of 2018, likened autonomous vehicles ("AV") to "smartphones on wheels". While apt, the comparison is a significant understatement. The volume of information generated by the daily activities of even the most enthusiastic user of smartphone technology pales in comparison to the torrent of data created by the average SAE Level 3, 4 or 5 AV over the course of just a few minutes of drive time. A significant amount of this data may qualify as personal information for the purposes of Canadian privacy law.

Privacy law is a moving target and if you are building a business model around AV technology and expect to use even a fraction of the personal information generated by AVs, you will need to take developments in this area into account. Below, we highlight selected features of and recent developments in Canadian privacy law that you should be aware of and may want to factor into your business model.

The Canadian Privacy Law Landscape in General

In Canada, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act ("PIPEDA") sets out ground rules for how private sector organizations and federal works, undertakings and businesses collect, use and disclose information about an identifiable individual ("personal information"), unless such activities are regulated by provincial legislation that has been declared substantially similar to PIPEDA. The provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Québec have enacted general provincial personal information protection legislation that has been recognized as substantially similar to PIPEDA, and operates in place of PIPEDA in those provinces for intra-provincial matters. Where personal information crosses provincial or national borders, however, PIPEDA prevails.

Consequently, your business may be affected by one or more of these laws, depending on how and where you operate in Canada. Given that in the AV space, the primary generator of personal information is highly mobile, it is likely that a business operating in this sector will be subject to PIPEDA. Our comments in this article will focus on PIPEDA and the interpretations and guidance of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada ("OPC") that relate to PIPEDA.

Transborder Transfers of Personal Information

The OPC's position regarding the transfer of personal information between organizations located in different jurisdictions is changing.

In the past, the OPC has taken the position that a transfer of data to a third party that processes personal information on behalf of an organization (including but not limited to outsourcing arrangements, such as hosting data on a cloud provider) did not require the consent of concerned individuals.

On April 9, 2019, however, the OPC published a document entitled "Consultation on transborder dataflows" stating that the OPC is now of the view that transfers of personal information for mere processing activities between organizations located in different jurisdictions (e.g. between a Canadian company and its hosting service provider located in the US) would require the consent of concerned individuals.

This significant departure from the OPC's earlier position could have substantial consequences for any AV business that plans to use third party service providers for processing personal information.

However, following the Federal government's announcement of a new Digital Charter and of PIPEDA's upcoming reform that will address (among other things) cross-border data flows, the OPC has suspended the consultation in its current form while leaving the door open for its resumption in response to future developments. In the meantime, the OPC has not retreated from the new position articulated in the consultation document, nor has the OPC indicated that it will investigate new complaints in accordance with its earlier position.

Further comment on these matters will be provided in a separate bulletin in the near future. For now, companies in the AV space should monitor closely these developments.

Obtaining Meaningful Consent from Customers

In January 2019, the OPC's Guidelines for obtaining meaningful consent ("Guidelines") came into effect.

According to the Guidelines, consent should generally be express and can be implied only in "strictly limited circumstances". Organizations must generally obtain an individual's express consent if the information collected, used or disclosed is sensitive, or if the collection, use or disclosure of the information is outside the individual's reasonable expectations or creates a meaningful, residual risk of significant harm (including reputational harm) to the individual.

Recognizing that personal information or aggregations thereof collected by AVs may fall into one or more of those categories, you might reason that your organization can enumerate all of the potential uses and disclosures in a single policy upfront and take care of express consent obligations all at once. The Guidelines, however, criticize precisely this approach, discouraging "the use of lengthy, legalistic privacy policies that too often served to make control – and personal autonomy – make the individual control that should be enabled by consent nothing more than illusory". The OPC expects organizations to think about what they plan to do with personal information and the ways they plan to do it, and then carefully consider how to communicate that in a form that avoids information overload for "individuals with limited time and energy to devote to reviewing privacy information".

For additional information, please see our recent bulletin that considers the new Guidelines in further detail.

The proposed PIPEDA reform suggests introducing new basis to handle personal information beyond consent, including for "standard business activities". Further comment on this question will be provided in a separate bulletin in the near future.

Data Breach Reporting Requirements

As of November 2018, PIPEDA requires that organizations "in control" of personal information must keep records of all breaches of security safeguards involving personal information, report breaches involving that information to the OPC, and notify concerned individuals where it is reasonable to believe that there is a "real risk of significant harm".

The wide variety of systems and communication channels that AVs are expected to employ present a very large "attack surface". The more sophisticated the systems, the greater the potential for vulnerabilities that can be exploited, leading to greater risk of breaches of security safeguards involving personal information.

Moreover, breaches suffered by service providers, such as cloud computing or storage systems and third party data processors, must also be accounted for. Where an organization has transferred personal information to a third party for processing and a breach occurs while the information is with the processor, under PIPEDA, the obligation to report remains with the principal organization ̶ the one "in control" of the personal information.

For further discussion, please see our recent commentary on data breach reporting. Upcoming IoT guidance from the OPC

The OPC has announced that it will release shortly new guidance regarding Internet of Things (IoT) for product manufacturers. Such guidance will be relevant for AV businesses. Companies in the AV space should closely monitor these developments.

Concluding Remarks

Privacy law is a moving target. Given the constantly changing dynamic between information use, the economy and society, we expect legal frameworks governing privacy and data protection will continue to evolve. This creates the potential to break business models that fail to account for these developments. As the privacy landscape changes, organizations may find that being proactive about privacy and data protection can help ensure a smooth path forward.

About BLG

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Practice Guides
by Mondaq Advice Centres
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions