Canada is trying its best to keep its laws at the pace of technology. Since 2004, the government has incorporated the federal law known as the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). However, each province has its own separate law that may further inhibit the movement of data and intellectual property beyond the scope of the federal law.
The jury is still out on the results of this policy. The business community in provinces that require data and intellectual property to stay physically inside of Canada’s borders are complaining that the higher prices of data storage is making their business non-competitive. Larger companies with the ability to move around the provincial laws are paying less; however, they are moving for stronger provincial and federal laws to give Canada more reach to protect them. In this protection, the likely effect will be to limit the reach of small- and medium-sized businesses even more.
One of the main tenets of PIPEDA is to move the primary accountability for the protection of Canadian data away from the government. The law actually states this in very plain English. However, the companies that are storing the data do not have any entity that they are responsible to because of the way that the federal law is worded, according to those critical of the Canadian government’s current policy.
Information that is known as “personally identifiable information,” shortened to “PII,” is some of the only information that has a fully explicit protection under the PIPEDA law. PII includes the obvious data: name, government ID numbers, age, ethnicity, blood type and income. However, it also includes more subjective information, such as evaluations, opinions, social status, any disciplinary actions taken against a person, credit and loan history, private medical records, intentions of a person to change jobs or acquire products and dispute resolution records. These last few information classifications are more difficult to define, and the government has even more trouble protecting them than private business.
The Canadian government’s basic protection is to ensure that all companies that originate in Canada are compliant to PIPEDA standards. The fines that are set forth in PIPEDA can quickly become quite substantial, so they do have the ability to affect even the largest companies in the country. The real issue is the ability to track down accountability in a virtual world, a world in which data can move freely and companies can quickly allay themselves of responsibility by denying the physical existence of data in a certain place.
International regulations also play a part in provinces that allow the data of Canadian companies to move outside of the country’s borders. Many Canadian businesses still prefer to store data in the United States, a place with much cheaper data storage. The Canadian government is currently in talks with tech experts and government officials from the U.S. to expand the reach of the Canadian government within the States. At present, the Canadian government may not have the reach to punish companies with servers in the U.S. if that company does not have any reason to do business in Canada. As a result, one of the major initiatives that Canada is undertaking is to make the country a very attractive place to do business.
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