#CyberFLASH: Update Canada’s privacy laws, but don’t look to Europe or the US for guidance, experts say

n-ONLINE-PRIVACY-largeEven Justin Trudeau thinks Canada needs to update its data privacy laws for the 21st century, but the recently passed E.U.-U.S. Privacy Shield probably isn’t providing the guiding light he might be hoping for, according to several privacy experts.

Instead, the current agreement highlights the need for an update: While our own federal private sector privacy law, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) was deemed “adequate” by the European Commission in the early 2000s, it’s scheduled to be revisited in the near future and might not meet the E.U.’s new standards – which many privacy advocates believe don’t go far enough anyway, the University of Ottawa’s chair of Internet and e-commerce law, Michael Geist, says.

“There’s a very real possibility that the E.U. could examine the adequacy finding for Canada and raise the same kinds of concerns that came up in the context of [Privacy Shield predecessor] Safe Harbour, potentially challenging whether Canada’s existing system – given some of the things we now know about surveillance and information sharing – is deserving,” he says.

That said, “there’s still a bit of an open question as to whether [Privacy Shield itself] meets E.U. law or not,” he continues. “There was a lot of political motivation to get a deal done, but I think there remains some ongoing concerns, particularly in the privacy community, which suggests that it still could be subject to challenges.”

Approved on July 12, the agreement, which E.U. member nations must incorporate into their national laws by May 6, 2018, establishes new regulations for data transfers between the U.S. and E.U., notably by imposing limitations on the access of U.S. public authorities to European consumers’ digital information; by requiring regular updates and reviews of companies that handle personal data; and by providing a clear method of conflict resolution for E.U. residents who feel their data has been misused without their consent.

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