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Privacy Commissioner Welcomes Government Action on Identity Theft
Ottawa, October 2, 2007 – The federal government’s plan to amend the Criminal Code to better address identity theft is a welcome first step towards stopping the explosion of a costly and emotionally devastating fraud, says Jennifer Stoddart, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
“Canadians have reason to fear being the victim of identity theft,” says Commissioner Stoddart. “The financial repercussions of losing their personal information can be crippling, and can affect victims for years to follow. The problem of identity theft highlights the value of personal information and the need to protect it.”
“Today’s announcement is encouraging. It promises to provide law enforcement officers with the tools to pursue identity thieves or fraudsters before Canadians suffer actual financial harm,” says the Commissioner, who will be closely reviewing details of the government’s plan in the coming days.
While this is a welcome step, the Commissioner still believes that the federal government must develop a broad-based strategy for tackling this type of fraud.
A comprehensive strategy should also include, for example:
- Measures to halt the dramatic proliferation of spam, which ID thieves often use to trick people into revealing personal information. Canada is the only G-8 country without anti-spam legislation.
- A plan to address “pretexting” – where a fraudster tries to obtain personal information about an individual, such as financial or telephone records, by posing as that person or someone else authorized to have the information.
- Reform of the badly out-of-date Privacy Act to ensure that personal information collected by federal departments and agencies is adequately protected.
- More extensive public education campaigns aimed at helping Canadians better protect their personal information.
Past efforts to combat identity theft and fraud using personal information have been hampered by a lack of coordination among various government departments and agencies, the provinces, law enforcement agencies and private-sector organizations.
As the Commissioner told the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in May 2007: “We need better information about identity theft. One reason for the lack of information is the lack of a centre of responsibility. Everyone is interested in preventing identity theft, but no one has overall responsibility for doing anything about it,” said the Commissioner.
The Privacy Commissioner’s submission to the committee is available at http://www.priv.gc.ca/parl/2007/sub_070508_e.cfm.
The Privacy Commissioner of Canada is mandated by Parliament to act as an ombudsman, advocate and guardian of privacy and the protection of personal information rights of Canadians.
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For more information and/or media interview requests, contact:
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Tel: (613) 995-0103
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