On November 17, 2020, the federal government proposed dramatic changes to how Canada will enforce privacy law, ushering in a new legal regime to protect individuals' personal information – and to regulate organizations' privacy practices. Bill C-11: the Digital Charter Implementation Act creates the Consumer Privacy Protection Act (CPPA) to replace the federal Personal Information and Electronics Documents Act (PIPEDA), and codify in law organizations' obligations respecting the collection, use and disclosure of personal information rather than merely rely on the Canadian Standard Association (CSA) Model Code. The federal government says it estimates 18 months for the CPPA to go through the legislative process and become law, though this is always difficult to gauge. It might be derailed by, for example, a federal election or the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic – but it might not.
It's still early days, but if the CPPA (or some form of it) passes, it will take organizations time to put the necessary compliance processes in place. Here are 10 ways the Consumer Privacy Protection Act will impact organizations' Canadian privacy practices.
1. Big Penalties. There will be significant penalties for non-compliance with the CPPA. It authorizes administrative monetary penalties and fines of up to 5% of global revenue or $25 million, whichever is higher, for the most serious offences. Currently, PIPEDA only authorizes penalties for breach of the Digital Privacy Act, and those are markedly lower than those under the CPPA: the maximum fine for breaching the Digital Privacy Act is $100,000 per violation (though if there were multiple violations, which would not be uncommon, the fines could add up).
2. Privacy Commissioner Powers. In a move away form the traditional ombudsman model, the CPPA gives the federal Privacy Commissioner broad power to make orders against organizations and to recommend penalties to a new "Personal Information and Data Protection Tribunal". Under PIPEDA, the Privacy Commissioner only has the power to make recommendations to a breaching organization.
3. New Tribunal. A new "Personal Information and Data Protection Tribunal" will determine and levy any penalties – which will have the effect of a court order – and hear appeals from orders of the Privacy Commissioner.
4. Global Application. The new law takes an expansive approach to applicability, expressly applying to all personal information an organization collects, uses or discloses, including interprovincially or internationally. This reflects the increased digitization and globalization of the global economy, which knows no border, and which the COVID-19 Pandemic has accelerated.
5. New Right of Action. It creates a new privacy breach legal claim. Where the Privacy Commissioner decides an organization violated an individual's privacy under the CPPA, and the Personal Information and Data Protection Tribunal upholds that finding, that individual can sue the organization (within 2 years) for compensation for the violation.
6. Data Portability & Deletion. It provides for new individual rights of data portability and deletion. Consumers can require an organization to transfer their data to another organization (subject to regulations that aren't yet available), likely to be a boon to open banking. Individuals can also require that an organization delete the personal information it's collected about them, subject to some limitations, in what appears to be a limited form of the "right to erasure".
7. Algorithmic Transparency. It requires algorithmic transparency. Consumers would now have the right to require an organization to explain how an automated decision-making system made a prediction, recommendation or decision.
9. Data De-Identification. It makes new rules around the de-identification of data – including allowing for organizations to use an individual's personal information without their consent in order to de-identify their data, but appears to limit other uses of de-identified data. Under certain circumstances, organizations can also disclose de-identified data to public entities for socially beneficial purposes.
10. Codes of Practice. It introduces the concept of "Codes of Practice". The CPPA allows private organizations to establish a "code" and internal certification programs for complying with the law that the Privacy Commissioner will approve. Once approved, the "code" will effectively establish the organization's legal compliance obligations.
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.