CMA elevates marketing's voice on data privacy

Oct 15, 2020
Advocacy Privacy

Privacy has been an increasingly important public issue during the pandemic, with the introduction of the COVID alert tracing app, and organizations reaching out to consumers on a more digital basis than ever before.

Although the federal government’s plan to update the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) has been stalled to make room for various pandemic-related priorities, COVID-19 hasn’t stopped the provinces from signaling that they’re willing to move on their own if Ottawa doesn’t move forward soon with PIPEDA reform. One way or the other, marketers can expect changes to privacy rules in the not-too-distant future.

With B.C., Quebec and Ontario recently wrapping up consultations to create or reform their own provincial privacy frameworks, we encourage you to read the briefs that the CMA submitted to each of these governments on behalf of the Canadian marketing community.

Provincial privacy legislation is nothing new for B.C and Quebec: marketers in those provinces are used to their activities being subject to provincial legislation, which applies in place of PIPEDA for intraprovincial commercial activities. 

Marketers in Ontario on the other hand, are not, and Ontario’s consultation (which closed on October 16) on the creation of its first-ever private sector privacy framework came as a surprise to some. Throughout the summer and early fall, the government has been looking for feedback on how to improve privacy protections in a province that has traditionally relied on PIPEDA to govern commercial activities.

As part of the consultation, the CMA participated in an industry roundtable with Ontario’s Ministry of Government and Consumer Services (MGCS) on September 30. Sara Clodman, the CMA’s Vice President of Public Affairs and Thought Leadership provided comments on behalf of the marketing community, noting that consumers want and expect companies to market relevant products and services to them. “ Privacy protection and data usage are not mutually exclusive,” she told roundtable participants. 

Right now, Ontario is concerned about the limitations on PIPEDA’s application to some of Ontario’s sectors and activities, including employees in provincially regulated sectors, political parties and the non-commercial activities of non-profits and charities. A new provincial privacy law could be one way to close these gaps.

That being said, in practice, marketers and consumers need clear and consistent privacy rules across the country so that the rules can be implemented effectively and well-understood. Marketers want Ontario to continue to rely on PIPEDA for privacy protection in the private sector, with new provincial legislation focusing only on identified gaps, without creating a costly and duplicative overarching framework for the private sector.

The CMA continues to emphasize in its ongoing discussions with policymakers that it’s important to prevent a patchwork of privacy rules from emerging across the country. A mechanism is needed to align the rules among federal and provincial policymakers. Any new provincial legislation should be in line with other principles-based Canadian laws, and proportionate and flexible enough to be effective in today’s fast-changing digital economy. 

With so many breaking privacy developments underway, the CMA’s annual privacy event for the marketing community – CMAprivacy – couldn’t come at a better time. To get the scoop on privacy developments and compliance tips directly from experts, including Daniel Therrien, Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, register now to join us on the morning of October 20.  

Author: Fiona Wilson | Director, Government Relations | CMA
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