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What we heard
“Canadians increasingly feel that their ability to protect their personal information
is diminishing. Seventy-three percent, the greatest proportion since tracking
began, think they have less protection of their personal information in their daily
lives than they did ten years ago.”
- 2014 Survey of Canadians on Privacy
Through our 2014 Survey of Canadians on Privacy ,
we heard that Canadians’ concern with the use of their
personal information was relatively high. Roughly half of polled Canadians admitted to not having a good
understanding of what businesses and government do with their personal information. This concern was
echoed by focus group participants, who repeatedly stated that they have no idea what happens to their
personal information in the private and public sectors, and who can access it.
Both focus group and stakeholder meeting participants were asked to consider the responsibilities of
individuals, organizations, regulators and legislators in protecting privacy, as well as to describe the role they
feel the OPC should play to advance privacy.
Focus group participants generally felt that responsibility for privacy protection begins with them because for
the most part they can choose what information to share and with whom. They believe organizations have an
ethical and legal responsibility to protect the information they collect, while the government is responsible for
developing, monitoring and enforcing laws.
Stakeholders varied in their responses about where the responsibility lies for protecting privacy. Some
stakeholders indicated that individuals are responsible for learning about an organization’s privacy practices so
that they are in a position to make informed choices with regard to their personal information and to provide
meaningful consent. Others suggested that organizations play an important role in this process by being open
and transparent about their information handling practices.
The OPC has traditionally been successful in working with organizations that are willing to comply and we plan
to maximize the use of current legislation to help those organizations. This may include supporting
“regulation-lite” options such as industry codes of conduct or ethical standards. However, we will also need to
determine under what circumstances more powers are required, for example, when dealing with non-
compliant organizations, in order to prescribe minimum expectations and possibly “no-go” zones.
Several ideas emerged through discussions that were common to most or all of the proposed themes. These
can be summarized as follows:
Vulnerable groups are particularly at risk of potential harms stemming from each theme. The groups
described as “vulnerable” vary depending on the theme, but youth and seniors were mentioned
Privacy enhancing technologies and privacy by design are necessary to reinforce privacy protections at
the front end.
The OPC has a significant role to play in education for individuals and Parliamentarians to raise their
awareness of privacy issues. Similarly, organizations, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs),
are in need of OPC outreach to reinforce understanding of their privacy obligations under PIPEDA.
Increased offers to engage in discussions with stakeholders for the purpose of enhancing the OPC’s
education, outreach, enforcement, and research activities.