The data privacy landscape is constantly changing. Keeping up with shifting and emerging regulations is challenging, especially if compliance represents just one piece of your day-to-day responsibilities. However, non-compliance isn’t worth the risk; most data privacy laws define several penalties and consequences. If you live in the United States, we also have a guide to US Data Protection laws you can read.
In the spirit of cybersecurity awareness month, we’ve pulled together this Canadian data privacy laws roundup to recap current federal, provincial, and industry laws, and what you need to know to ensure compliance.
Federal data privacy laws
The Privacy Act
This Act applies to the Canadian government’s collection, use, and disclosure of citizen data for federal services purposes. It applies only to federal government institutions and covers all personal information that the government handles, including federal employees.
Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)
PIPEDA is the primary federal privacy law in Canada that governs the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information by private sector organizations. It applies to businesses engaged in commercial activities across provincial and national borders. The law has been grandfathered over time and gone through a few revisions along the way. Any company engaged in commercial and transactional activities involving the personal information of Canadian citizens must comply with PIPEDA.
Digital Privacy Act
This is an amendment to PIPEDA that came into effect in 2015. It introduced several changes, including mandatory breach notification requirements and increased fines for non-compliance and/or failure to report breaches (up to $100,000).
Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)
Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) governs electronic communications and commercial messages. While not strictly a data privacy law, it imposes requirements on obtaining consent for sending electronic messages, including email and text messages, and contains provisions related to the installation of computer programs. In the event of a violation, offenders may have to pay an administrative monetary penalty (AMP), which can cost up to a maximum of $1 million for an individual, or $10 million for a business.
Federal Health Sector Laws
The health sector in Canada is subject to specific privacy laws, such as the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) in Ontario and the Health Information Act (HIA) in Alberta, which regulate the handling of health-related information.
Public Sector Privacy Laws
Federal and provincial government organizations are subject to their own privacy laws, such as the federal Privacy Act and any provincial equivalents, which govern the handling of personal information in the public sector.