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Data Privacy Law Differences Between Canada and the United States

Oct 22, 2020 | Technology

Are you a business manager or corporate head who needs to hire Canadian workers? Most likely, you’re familiar with American privacy information laws but may not know much, or maybe nothing at all, about Canadian privacy laws. If you plan to expand your company to include Canadian workers, it’s imperative that you know about Canadian data privacy laws.  Here are a few of the basic differences between Canadian and U.S. data privacy laws, along with some considerations and warnings.

What Does Data Privacy Mean?

Put simply, data privacy, which is also known as information privacy, is the need for protecting and preserving any type of personal information that is being collected by a business or organization. This means that personal data cannot be obtained by a third party.

This data includes any subjective or factual information, whether it’s recorded or isn’t recorded, regarding an individual. Common examples include a person’s name, age, Social Security ID number, ethnicity, income, political opinions, or even blood type. Personal data may also include credit records, medical records, loan records, and other types of personal information.

Why Is Data Privacy So Important?

The main reason why data privacy is so critical is because there have been countless cases of data breaches that have recently occurred in businesses because of sloppy data privacy practices. As a result, these incidents have destroyed both the profits and reputations of businesses. Thus, businesses must act always act in the best interest of their employees and customers, which means guarding the privacy of each individual. Hence, if an employee wants to keep their personal data private, their employers should respect their privacy preferences.

Data Privacy Laws in Canada

Although there are several laws made for protecting overall privacy, the two main ones are PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act) and the Privacy Act. Both of these privacy laws are under the administration of the Office of the Privacy Commission of Canada.

PIPEDA has provisions for guarding information for a wide range of business transactions, both at the domestic and international level. While PIPEDA covers the private sector, the Privacy Act pertains to the public sector. This law covers the large spectrum of privacy issues linked to data management such as the collection or storage of data by health care, telecommunications, internet server providers and banking institutions.

What’s more, there are also provincial laws designed for governing personal information use in British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec, which are thought to be equal to PIPEDA by the Canadian federal government. All Canadian businesses are under these laws based on their location. These privacy laws make sure that personal data is used properly so that the privacy of the owners isn’t compromised.

U.S. Data Privacy Laws

The power for enforcing information protection regulations and data privacy protection at the federal level belongs to the United States Federal Trade Commission. But there isn’t any central data protection authority or federal data privacy law that has the job of ensuring law compliance. Instead, regulation is done at the state level, which gives state attorneys the task of law enforcement.

Each state has the right and ability to pass data privacy laws. While states such as California, have numerous laws pertaining to health information privacy, financial privacy and other types of data privacy, some states have very few or no data privacy regulations.

Basic Difference Between the U.S. and Canadian Data Privacy Laws

Even though there are some similarities, there also some basic differences in privacy laws between the United States and Canada. For example, in the United States, there is minimal regulation of the private sector. But in Canada, the private sector’s use of personal information is overseen by the government.

Privacy protection is basically liberty protection in the United States, which means protection from government. However, in Canada and in Europe, privacy involves the protection of public image or dignity. In other words, in Canada, privacy protection focuses more on the autonomy of an individual through the personal control of data.

Other Considerations and Warnings

  • In Canada, disclosing personal data to a third party without the consent of the individual can result in a breach of the laws, except for specific situations.
  • Stealing personal data from Canadian workers can lead to civil charges, as well as criminal charges.

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