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The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) is a federal privacy law that regulates how the private sector collects, uses and discloses the personal information of consumers in Canada. PIPEDA came into full effect on January 1, 2004.
PIPEDA Compliance Checklist for Websites
- Limit data collection only for legitimate purposes
- Obtain user consent for cookies and trackers
- Allow users to easily withdraw consent
- Maintain a record of all user consents
- Notify data breaches to OPC and users
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The PIPEDA requires businesses to obtain consent prior to the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information(including data collected through cookies).
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Under the PIPEDA, businesses should respect the principle of openness and inform how you collect, use, or disclose users’ personal information.
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What is PIPEDA?
The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) is a federal Canadian data privacy law that regulates how businesses collect, use and disclose personal data in the course of any commercial activity within Canada.
This law was passed in 2000 before privacy laws such as the GDPR and CCPA came into the picture. PIPEDA came into force on January 1, 2001, and was implemented in three stages with the final stage of the law coming into effect on January 1, 2004.
Who does PIPEDA apply to?
PIPEDA applies to private-sector organizations across Canada that handle personal information when engaging in any “commercial activity” such as selling, bartering or leasing of donors, membership or other fundraising lists. PIPEDA applies to any businesses that operate in Canada and handle personal information that crosses provincial or national borders.
Federal government organizations listed under the Privacy Act, provincial or territorial governments, non-profit organizations that do not engage in commercial activities, and political and charitable organizations are exempt from PIPEDA.
What are consumer rights?
Right to access
The right to access personal data and to have it available in a clear and readable format, free of cost.
Right to correct
The right to request correction if personal information is inaccuracte or incomplete.
Right to withdraw consent
The right to revoke or withdraw consent to the processing of personal data, subject to legal or contractual restrictions and reasonable notice.
Right to complain
The right to challenge an organization’s compliance with an individual accountable for the organization’s compliance.
What is the penalty for non-compliance?
Organizations that violate PIPEDA’s requirements such as security safeguards, and data breach reporting may be subject to fines of up to CAD 100,000.
FAQ on PIPEDA Compliance
Canada has two federal data privacy laws, both enforced by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
- PIPEDA: The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) is a federal law that governs how organizations in the private sector collect, use, and disclose personal information for their commercial activities.
- Privacy Act: This federal Act governs the Government’s collection, use and disclosure of personal information in the course of providing services.
PIPEDA defines personal information as any information about an identifiable individual. This can include data such as name, age, gender, race, marital status, home address, ID numbers, driver’s license number, social insurance number etc.
PIPEDA requires heightened levels of protection for sensitive personal information. While the law does not define what constitutes personal sensitive personal information, it clarifies that any information can be sensitive depending on context. PIPEDA cites medical history and income records as examples.
There are some exceptions to the applicability of PIPEDA. It does not apply to
- Government organisations covered by the Privacy Act
- An individual’s collection, use, or disclosure of personal information strictly for personal or domestic purposes.
- An organization’s collection, use, or disclosure of personal information solely for journalistic, artistic or literary purposes.
PIPEDA does not apply to organizations that operate only within the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec, as they are required to follow provincial privacy laws similar to PIPEDA.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) is the supervisory authority for the implementation of PIPEDA. It is the only federal agency responsible for overseeing compliance with PIPEDA, while each province and territory designates its supervisory authority under the applicable privacy law.
The OPC has investigatory powers to probe complaints related to the handling of personal information, and promoting the privacy rights of individuals. The OPC also holds the power to conduct audits of organizations and resolve complaints through dispute-resolution mechanisms. However, the OPC has limited corrective powers.
Yes, PIPEDA allows for the transfer of personal information outside of Canada. However, PIPEDA does not contain any specific provisions related to cross-border data transfer. But all transfers of personal information to any third-party processor, whether within Canada or internationally, are subject to the accountability principle under PIPEDA. As per this principle, organizations are responsible for personal information that has been transferred to a third party and are required to use contractual or other means to ensure that the third party provides a comparable level of protection.
Canada is not subject to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) because GDPR oversees the data privacy and protection of EU and EEA residents. However, GDPR has extra-territorial scope, meaning it applies to the processing of personal data of individuals in the EU, regardless of where the processing takes place. Therefore, it can be applied to businesses in Canada that offer goods or services to individuals in the EU, or monitor the behaviour of individuals in the EU.
Here are some links you can refer to for additional reading:
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