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Building Trust in the Information Economy.

Canada's New E-commerce Legislation

The Canadian Electronic Commerce Strategy places a high importance on building trust in the marketplace. Canada's new Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, Bill C-6, contributes to that trust by ensuring the confidentiality, integrity and authenticity of electronic transactions and helping make Canada a world leader in e-commerce.

Protection of personal information in the private sector

Over the past 20 years, the protection of personal information has been a growing concern in many countries around the world. In 1980, the Council of Europe adopted a convention binding member states to create legislation establishing fair information practices. At the same time, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development adopted a set of privacy principles, the Guidelines on the Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data.

In 1995, the European Union passed a data protection directive protecting personal information and harmonizing privacy laws among its nations. The directive also requires that member states block transfers of information to those countries that cannot provide an adequate level of protection.

In Canada, the federal government and most of the provinces currently have legislation in place to protect personal information in the public sector. However, only the province of Quebec adopted broad legislation for the private sector before 2000.

It is a well-known fact that personal information has become a commodity that can be bought, sold and traded. It is crossing all boundaries, and most industries are not subject to any rules concerning the collection, use and disclosure of personal information. Recent polls by Angus Reid and EKOS Research Associates found that 80% of Canadians think their personal data should be kept strictly confidential and that the government should work with businesses to set rules for privacy protection. As well, the Canadian business community has called for legislation that would establish a level playing field where the same marketplace rules would apply to all.

In response to these concerns, the privacy component of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act was designed to cover all types of personal information used in the private sector. As well, it provides a basic set of fair information practices to govern personal information, independent oversight by a data protection authority and redress through the courts. The Act is consumer-friendly while following a private sector standard that is not overly burdensome for industry, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.

With this legislation, Canada has become the first country in the world to develop a standard for managing personal information. The Act incorporates, and makes law, the fair information principles established in the Canadian Standards Association's (CSA) International Model Code for the Protection of Personal Information.

The code's 10 principles address:

* accountability

* identifying purposes

* consent

* limiting collection

* limiting use, disclosure and retention

* accuracy

* safeguards

* openness

* individual access

* challenging compliance

The Act will come into force in January 2001, and will initially cover the federally regulated private sector as well as transborder trade in personal information. By 2004, the Act will apply more generally to all interprovincial and international flows of personal data, and to the collection, use and disclosure of personal information by organizations within the provinces, unless they have enacted substantially similar legislation.

Electronic documents

Consistent with the Model Law on Electronic Commerce approved by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, the Act also accommodates the use of electronic technology when complying with federal laws. The Act provides for the use of digital signature technology in electronic transactions and communications with the Government of Canada, and facilitates the admissibility of electronic documents.

Colette Jubinville works in the communications branch of Industry Canada.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Society of Management Accountants of Canada
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Title Annotation:Canadian legislation protects e-commerce.
Author:Jubinville, Colette
Publication:CMA Management
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Sep 1, 2000
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