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New privacy law gives Canadians legal rights over collection of personal information

Ottawa, January 4, 2001 - Canadians are now protected by new legislation that establishes rules to govern the collection, use and disclosure of personal information by the private sector.

On January 1, 2001, The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act came into effect. It will be enforced in three stages, the first applying to the federally-regulated private sector, including banks, telephone companies, broadcasters, cable companies and air carriers. The Act also covers all businesses and organizations engaged in commercial activity in Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. It will apply to health information on January 1, 2002, and to all commercial transactions involving personal information as of 2004.

"With the acceleration of electronic commerce and new advances in digital technologies, I believe that privacy will be the defining issue of the next decade," said Privacy Commissioner George Radwanski. "It is important that Canadians realize they have fundamental rights when it comes to privacy, and that they are not obliged to give information about themselves to everybody who asks. The new Act gives them the power to ask why the information requested from them is needed, and gives them more control over how it is used."

The Act also broadens the role of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and establishes him as a privacy ombudsman. His responsibilities will include conducting research and promoting awareness of privacy issues in Canada, as well as encouraging organizations to develop and adopt privacy policies and information protection practices. Information on the Act and on privacy issues is available to Canadians on the Privacy Commissioner of Canada's Web site at http://www.priv.gc.ca, or by calling 1 800 282-1376.

To help businesses understand and meet their new obligations under the Act, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner has recently published "Your Privacy Responsibilities", a guide to Canada's Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, also available on the Web site .

For more information, contact:

Media Relations
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
(613) 943-5549

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