Ottawa Unveils New Digital Strategy Aimed At Protecting Canadians Online Privacy

Ottawa is planning to overhaul Canada's laws governing the internet and digital privacy.

Federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains has unveiled elements of a new "digital strategy." The strategy includes a digital charter that guarantees Canadians data portability — the ability to retain data when changing services.

Bains said the 10-point digital charter outlines the federal government's basic principles for online governance, including universal access, safety and security, user control over personal data, transparency and portability, and keeping digital platforms free from hate speech and violent extremism.

Bains added that there will be "clear, meaningful penalties for violations of the laws and regulations that support these principles." He did not say how stiff the penalties might be, or whether they could reach the level of fines being levied on technology giants by some countries in Europe — such as the fine of 50 million euros France levied on Google earlier this year.

Ottawa is also promising to strengthen the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), the privacy law that governs private sector corporations. PIPEDA has not been updated or revised since the early 2000s and has grown increasingly outdated in comparison with new privacy laws adopted around the world.

The government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is also considering giving new powers to Canada's competition watchdog to play a greater role in policing technology giants such as Facebook. Lastly, Ottawa is undertaking a review of the "Statistics Act," which landed in the news last year after it was revealed that Statistics Canada planned to collect the banking information of Canadians. Bains said the federal government wants to ensure that Canadians can trust the way StatsCan is handling their data.