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News Release

New transparency guidance is a positive step for privacy, Commissioner says

Privacy Commissioner welcomes new transparency reporting guidelines; releases comparative analysis of transparency reports

GATINEAU, QC, June 30, 2015 – New federal transparency reporting guidelines are a very positive step in informing Canadians about how often, and in what circumstances businesses provide customer information to law enforcement and security agencies, says the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

“We expect the guidance will help organizations to provide Canadians with a much clearer picture of what happens to the personal information they entrust to businesses,” says Commissioner Daniel Therrien.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) has been calling for greater transparency for many years – recommending that organizations be required to make public statistical information related to information requests from government authorities.

In the wake of the Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark decision in R. v. Spencer, Commissioner Therrien worked with key players from government and industry to discuss how to move forward to address the issue.

Industry Canada has now finalized guidance developed in consultation with the OPC, government departments and industry stakeholders. The Transparency Reporting Guidelines announced today will provide direction to companies on making public information related to requests from government agencies to access customer information.

The OPC today released a comparative analysis of transparency reports that have been voluntarily published by some telecommunications and other service providers over the last couple of years.

The OPC analysis concludes that, while “the reporting schemes remain patchwork and have some clear gaps,” the voluntary transparency reports, along with existing reports to Parliament from Public Safety Canada, represent important sources for understanding how federal law enforcement intercepts private communications and whether these measures are effective.

“The new transparency guidelines will help to close existing gaps in transparency reporting,” says Commissioner Therrien.  “Public discussion about privacy issues needs to be grounded in facts. Timely, statistical information will help Canadians to make informed consumer choices and also better understand how and when government agencies are accessing personal information held by private sector organizations.”

Following the R. v. Spencer decision, the guidance, will help clarify how much information is disclosed to government authorities under “lawful authority” provisions. 

The OPC has also asked federal government departments to begin issuing their own transparency reports about requests to private sector organizations for customer information.

About the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada is mandated by Parliament to act as an ombudsman and guardian of privacy in Canada. The Commissioner enforces two laws for the protection of personal information: the Privacy Act, which applies to the federal public sector; and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), Canada’s federal private sector privacy law.

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For more information, please contact:

Valerie Lawton, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

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