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How PIPEDA applies to the creation and use of electronic documents

Many people often overlook the fact that PIPEDA, in addition to ensuring that organizations collect, use and disclose personal information in a manner consistent with the Act, allows for the creation of electronic alternatives for doing business with government agencies, facilitates the use of electronic documents in judicial proceedings and gives legal recognition to electronic versions of official Parliamentary publications.

Part 2 of PIPEDA, entitled “Electronic Documents”, seeks to provide for the use of electronic alternatives where federal laws contemplate the use of paper to record or communicate information or transactions.  In other words, Part 2 of the Act seeks to put electronic and paper media on an equal footing.  As well, Part 2 of the Act seeks to ensure that federal legislation adapts to a growing electronic environment by removing paper-only requirements appearing in legislation.  Part 2 of the Act, however, is not prescriptive and organizations may opt in.  As such, the appropriate authorities can choose whether to make regulations about how the requirements under Part 2 requirements may be satisfied using electronic means. 

Part 2 also describes the characteristics of secure electronic signatures and grants authority to make regulations prescribing technologies or processes for the purpose of the definition "secure electronic signature".  Before a technology or process can be prescribed:

  • the electronic signature must be unique to the person using it;
  • the person whose electronic signature is on the document must have control of the use of the technology to attach the signature;
  • the technology must be used to identify the person using the electronic signature; and
  • the electronic signature must be linked to an electronic document to determine if the document has been changed after the electronic signature was attached to it.

Part 3 of PIPEDA amends the Canada Evidence Act to facilitate the admissibility of electronic documents in Court, to establish evidentiary presumptions related to secure electronic signatures, and to provide for the recognition as evidence of notices, acts and other documents published electronically.  Part 3 requires the use of secure electronic signatures for electronic documents whenever the law provides for original documents or statements of truth.

Part 4 amends the Statutory Instruments Act to give notices and acts published electronically by the Queen’s Printer the same legal authority as notices and acts published in paper form.

Finally, Part 5 amends the Statute Revision Act to authorize the publication and distribution of an electronic version of the Consolidated Statutes and Regulations of Canada and gives official status to the electronic version of revisions of the statutes and regulations of Canada as well as the consolidated version of the statutes and regulations.

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