Appearance before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics on Supplementary Estimates 2010-2011

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November 23, 2010
Ottawa, Ontario

Opening Statement by Jennifer Stoddart
Privacy Commissioner of Canada

(Check against delivery)

Good afternoon.   I am accompanied by Tom Pulcine, our Director General, Corporate Services, as well as Carman Baggaley, a senior policy advisor in our Office.

We're here to discuss supplementary estimates relating to the OPC's oversight role in relation to Bill C-28, the anti-spam legislation.

The overarching purpose of C-28 is to combat spam in order to provide for a safer Internet. Spam is a serious problem that has a significant impact on the economy.  I should point out that Canada is currently the only G8 country without such legislation.  Three federal agencies will share oversight: the CRTC, the Competition Bureau, and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

I thought it might be worthwhile to take a couple of minutes to put our role regarding that legislation in context.

Our role will be to investigate the unauthorized collection and use of personal information through a variety of different techniques: harvesting of e-mail addresses, dictionary attacks, and malware or spyware.

The legislation doesn't change our existing enforcement powers.  However, we will play an important enforcement role. To fulfill this role, we will need to explain this new law to our stakeholders and the public, and undertake compliance education.  The investigations themselves are likely to require technical expertise, as well as collaboration with domestic and international enforcement bodies, and a need for legal enforcement action in some cases.

The legislation also imported some amendments to PIPEDA that are familiar to many members of this committee.  Number one is to give our Office discretion to decline to investigate a complaint, discontinue a complaint or refer it elsewhere, and allow for collaboration with and the exchange of information with provincial and foreign counterparts who oversee and enforce laws that are similar to PIPEDA. These are general amendments to PIPEDA and would therefore apply to all of our activities, not just those activities related to spam.

Assuming the Bill receives Royal Assent this fiscal year, we will receive approximately $700K this year and $2M in future years.  We plan to hire a modest amount of additional staff (6 FTEs). The focus this year will be on educating the public on the new legislation. We will be hiring technical expertise, acquiring knowledge to deepen our understanding of the many facets of spam, as well as collaborating with the other stakeholders. In future years we envision significant work in responding to the public inquiries, increased education and compliance activities.

We need to prepare for public inquiries and inquiries from businesses.  We've already started to ramp up our technical expertise that will be needed for investigations dealing with spyware and malware under C-28. And we've invested in software for these online investigations.

Perhaps that's enough to give you some context for our request. I'm happy to answer any questions.

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