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Privacy watchdog slams current law, warns Canada ‘too far behind’ Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Thursday, June 6, 2013.

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Watchdog slams law
Canada’s privacy watchdog warns today that the country "has fallen too far behind" in protection.

The Personal Information Protection and Electronics Documents Act, Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart says, is no longer up to snuff and needs to be brought into modern times.

“The protection of privacy is not child’s play,” she says.

“It demands a law that is strong and mature, nuanced and effective,” she adds in her annual report to Parliament.

“PIPEDA, conceived in another millennium, is no longer up to the task.”

Ms. Stoddart, who will soon be leaving after a decade in the job, called for an overhaul of the law, in co-operation with other countries.

“While other nations’ data protection authorities have the legal power to make binding orders, levy hefty fines and take meaningful action in the event of serious data breaches, we are restricted to a ‘soft’ approach: persuasion, encouragement and, at the most, the potential to publish the names of transgressors in the public interest … All told, stronger enforcement measures in PIPEDA would provide incentives for organizations to their responsibilities more seriously in the first place and build in privacy protections up front, knowing that the financial consequences of breach under a stronger regime could be real and significant.”

That’s not to say her group hasn’t made strides. Indeed, it has probed and settled several cases, some of them frightening.

Her report outlines how one company installed software on the laptops it was renting out. This software snooped on the users in terms of collecting data, key strokes and web cam photos. The company agreed to stop and destroy what it had already gathered.

In another case, people with sexually transmitted diseases alleged that a dating website for members with STDs was storing their information in a broader network. The companies in question agreed to make their practices more transparent.

And in yet another case cited, a teenage girl was the target of a phony Facebook account in her name. Some of her friends in the real world “friended” the fake account, which became home to a “barrage” of inappropriate remarks.

Facebook agreed to bring in new measures, Ms. Stoddart says.

She doesn’t expect such threats to ease, but rather probably expand.

“With the astonishing capability of modern computers to collect, store, manipulate and interpret data, personal information has become a red-hot commodity.”

Poloz in first public appearance
The new governor of the Bank of Canada sees the global recovery as “more like a postwar reconstruction” that will take time and patience.

Stephen Poloz appeared today before the Commons finance committee and, in his opening statement, at least, gave no hints and didn’t stray from the central bank’s playbook.

The global economy is still struggling, Mr. Poloz told the committee, and it will take time for a sustained rebound, The Globe and Mail's Kevin Carmichael reports.

“Global economic activity is expected to grow modestly this year before strengthening over the following two years,” he said.

“But this is not a recovery in the usual sense. It’s more like a postwar reconstruction. It will require sustained and focused efforts to rebuild global economic potential.”

While Canada came through the meltdown better than most, it was still an unusual recession, with an unusual recovery. But Mr. Poloz does see better times ahead.

“The sequence we can anticipate is the following: foreign demand will recover; our exports will strengthen further; confidence will improve; companies will invest to increase capacity; existing companies will expand and new ones will be created.”

His comments came as both the European Central Bank and the Bank of England held their benchmark rates steady at 0.5 per cent.

Public Mobile sold
The ground continues to shift under Canada’s wireless industry.

Public Mobile, one of the upstarts formed in 2008, said today it’s being taken over by two investment firms, Thomvest Seed Capital Inc., part of the Thomson family, and Cartesian Capital of New York.

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