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Governments need information about their

citizens in order to deliver programs and set

public policies in vital areas such as health,

transportation, public safety and national

security.

At the same time, Canadians need to know

that their personal information is being

collected, used and disclosed only according

to strict rules that preserve their right to

privacy.

Without privacy, other fundamental rights

– to speak, to assemble and to be free from

unreasonable search and seizure – lack true

meaning.

The

Privacy Act

, which came into force in

1983, requires appropriate safeguards for the

personal information that is gathered by the

federal government.

In the intervening decades, several trends

have emerged to make the need for such a

law ever more acute.

In particular, the Internet, global positioning

systems (GPS), wireless communications

technologies, radio frequency identification

(RFID) tags and miniaturized surveillance

equipment have revolutionized the ways we

create, store and share data on individuals.

And there are ever-growing amounts of

personal information being compiled, as

governments address such modern-day

concerns as threats to public safety and

national security.

W h e r e t h e

P r i va c y A c t

A p p l i e s

The

Privacy Act

applies to the federal

public sector, which includes about

250 departments, agencies and Crown

corporations, ranging from Agriculture and

Agri-Food Canada to the Yukon Surface

Rights Board.

All provinces and territories have similar laws

governing their own public sectors.

In passing the

Privacy Act

and appointing a

Privacy Commissioner, Parliament asserted

Canadians’ right to privacy. It concluded

that, while government needs to collect and

Overview of privacy protections

in the federal government

4