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Government Moves to Protect Privacy in Private Sector

OTTAWA, October 1, 1998 - "Today's tabling of private sector privacy legislation in the House of Commons is the most significant advance in protecting Canadians' personal information since the Privacy Act regulated federal government handling of personal information in 1983" says Privacy Commissioner Bruce Phillips.

The most far-reaching impact of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act will be on all personal information handling in the federally-regulated private sector - banking, telecommunications and transportation - regardless of the form of the data. These sectors now will be legally required to respect clients' rights to know what information about them is being collected, how it is used, to whom it is disclosed, and to have their consent obtained before their information is used for other purposes.

Phillips observed that "these are the core values in any personal information code which should provide a sturdy buttress to the trust relationship between business and clients". The Bill also provides consumers an independent arbiter (the Privacy Commissioner) should they be unable to resolve disputes directly with the business.

The Bill builds on a consensus of consumer, business groups and government to craft a privacy protection code for the private sector which would be effective but not onerous for individuals or business. Business should have no trouble living with this law which builds on the assumption that clients know about - and consent to - the business's handling of their personal information. Making the personal information implications of transactions clear can only benefit all participants. There should be no surprises and no secrets for clients, and Canadian business will gain by moving one step closer to meeting international norms.

The government's announcement should also help reassure Canadians that they can enjoy the benefits of electronic commerce without trading away their control over their personal information. Without some rules of the road, e-shoppers could find themselves paying twice - relieved of both their money and their data by information highwaymen.

"I'm encouraged by what I see at first reading and I support the general approach outlined in the bill, but it deserves and requires careful examination. I look forward to discussing this initiative with Parliament", added Phillips.

Information: Marie-Andrée Imbeault : (613) 996-4955 or (1-800-267-0441)

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