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A Year of Progress and Rebuilding — Meeting the Growing Privacy Challenges Ahead

Ottawa, November 4, 2004 – "The past year was a challenging year, where threats to privacy proliferated, and protecting personal information and promoting the privacy rights of Canadians was at times an uphill battle," said Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Jennifer Stoddart in her first report tabled to Parliament.

While efforts to rebuild and regain the confidence of Parliament and Canadians were a key focus of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, significant progress was made to strengthen management and financial practices, implement corrective measures and address the growing privacy concerns of Canadians.

"We have seized the opportunity to rebuild on a stronger foundation, and are confidently moving forward with renewed energy to meet the many privacy challenges ahead," says Ms. Stoddart.

Key Achievements

  • Preparing for the full implementation of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), with a focus on helping private sector organizations comply with their obligations, and making individuals aware of their privacy rights;
  • Responding to thousands of inquiries and requests for information and assistance from businesses over the application of PIPEDA;
  • Addressing a record number of new complaints under the Privacy Act, a 250 per cent increase over the previous year;
  • Working with health care providers and government officials to provide tools and guidance on PIPEDA, to address concerns from the health care community;
  • Strengthening the Office's capacities to monitor new technologies and their privacy impact.

"We must ensure the privacy rights of individuals are not lost or submerged in the chorus of voices calling for more security, more data, and more information about all of us," says Ms. Stoddart.

Looking ahead, the Office will continue to foster a clearer understanding of emerging privacy issues for Parliamentarians, the public and lawmakers, and to continue providing a cogent analysis of national and international privacy risks and challenges as they evolve including:

  • Suggestions for a legislative reform of the Privacy Act which would equip the Government of Canada to more adequately protect the privacy rights of Canadians in today's advanced security and technology environment;
  • A review of the Anti-terrorism Act to ensure that Canadians' privacy rights are protected to the utmost of our ability;
  • An audit of the cross-border flow of Canadians' personal information and the impact this may have on their rights to privacy;
  • The monitoring of new surveillance technologies that have the potential to threaten citizens' privacy. The Office will work with federal partners to identify appropriate, regulatory, and technical measures to address these issues.

In the Report, Ms. Stoddart commends Office staff for their professionalism and grace under pressure in dealing with the challenges of the past year. Ms. Stoddart also highlights the tremendous work of Interim Privacy Commissioner Robert Marleau for his leadership and initiative during the transition period before her appointment.

A full copy of the OPC's 2003-2004 Annual Report to Parliament is available on-line at www.priv.gc.ca or by calling 1-800-282-1376.

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Media contact:

Renée Couturier
Media Relations
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Tel: (613) 995-0103
E-mail: rcouturier@priv.gc.ca
www.priv.gc.ca

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