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Cablegate: Canadian Privacy Law and Policy: Background

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

082016Z Nov 04

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 002991

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EB/EWH, WHA/CAN, WHA/EPSC - J.YOUNG

STATE ALSO FOR L/LEI - PROPP

DEPT PASS USTR FOR CHANDLER

USDOC FOR ITA - WORD, FOX, HERNANDEZ

USDOC PASS ITC - SCHLITT AND JENNINGS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD EINV CA
SUBJECT: CANADIAN PRIVACY LAW AND POLICY: BACKGROUND

REF: VANCOUVER 1450

SUMMARY/ INTRODUCTION
---------------------

1. On October 29, the Information and Privacy Commissioner
for the Canadian Province of British Columbia released a
report titled "Privacy and the US Patriot Act." The report
(reftel) finds a "general consensus" that, under the Patriot
Act, U.S. authorities could order a U.S.-based corporation
to produce records held in Canada. The example in question
is personal health data on Canadian citizens which the
corporation might hold as part of a data services
arrangement with a Canadian province's health ministry. On
November 4, in an annual report, the Privacy Commissioner of
Canada proposed (among other things) an audit of the cross-
border flow of Canadians' personal information and the
impact this may have on their rights to privacy.

2. These reports have intensified discussion in Canada of
privacy issues, particularly those raised by the interplay
of the world's largest cross-border commercial relationship
with U.S. law enforcement and counterterrorist activity. As
background to inevitable USG participation, this message
outlines the Canadian context of such issues. END
SUMMARY/INTRODUCTION

CANADIAN LEGAL CONTEXT
----------------------

3.There are two key Canadian laws governing privacy:

-- The 1983 Privacy Act required some limits on the GOC's
collection, use and disclosure of personal information, and
gave Canadians the right to access and correct it.

-- The 2001 Personal Information Protection and Electronic
Documents Act (PIPEDA), which extended privacy protections
beyond the federal government to personal information
collected in any commercial activity.

4.Key guidelines of PIPEDA are that (a) the individual's
knowledge and consent are required; (b) purposes must be
identified at or before the time of collection, and the
information cannot be used or disclosed for other purposes;
and (c) individuals generally must be given access to the
information about themselves, and be able to challenge it.

5.The key difference between the Canadian and U.S. legal
approaches to privacy is that independent offices, called
Privacy Commissioners, exist to enforce these laws at both
the federal and provincial levels in Canada. While these
officials' direct power is constrained by their very limited
staff resources, they comment regularly on privacy issues
(including on government policy and legislation) through
publications, media, and Parliamentary channels, and their
views are widely reported. The federal Privacy
Commissioner's website is privcom.gc.ca.


HISTORY OF ISSUES
-----------------

6.EU DIRECTIVE: Beginning in 1995, the European Union's
Policy Directive on Personal Data accented differences
between EU and US practices, and threatened to bar the
commercial transmission of personal data across the
Atlantic. Canada's privacy regime, with its (albeit modest)
enforcement capacity, was significantly closer to the EU
model than the United States'. While the EU and the United
States spent several years negotiating USDOC's "safe harbor"
compromise, the GOC responded by developing the legislation
which eventually resulted in PIPEDA.

7.CUSTOMER DATA: Throughout Canadian society in the late
1990's, as in the United States, there was heightened
concern about telephone and Internet privacy:
telemarketing, customer "loyalty" or "reward" programs, the
sale of mailing lists and other customer data, and the
collection and distribution of personal information through
the Internet. These mainly focussed on practices in the
private sector, rather than in government. Privacy
Commissioners commented extensively on these issues, which
PIPEDA was also intended to address.

8. OPENING MAIL: In 2001, the federal Privacy Commissioner
successfully rolled back Canadian customs officials' right
to open international mail. Until then, customs inspectors
could not open letters under 30 grams without consent or a
warrant, but they could legally open any correspondence
contained in a larger package, such as a courier envelope.
The GOC admitted that this was done regularly to assist in
the enforcement of immigration law. Immigration lawyers
appealed to the Privacy Commissioner, who persuaded the GOC
to exclude the weight of courier envelopes from the 30-gram
rule.

9/11 REACTION
-------------

9. In the rush to enact anti-terrorist measures in both
Canada and the United States in the wake of September 11,
2001, advocates viewed privacy rights as being threatened by
over-hasty government action. In addition, Canada's federal
Privacy Commissioner repeatedly cautioned the GOC against
relying too heavily on pressure from the USG as a
justification for its measures. In his view, national
security could well provide reasonable grounds for
diminishing Canadians' privacy rights, but the GOC had to do
so in a Canadian legal context. In his words, "The
Americans made us do it" could not be a sufficient excuse.

PUBLIC SAFETY ACT
-----------------

10. The GOC unveiled an extensive Public Safety Act which
worked its way through Parliament during 2003, to close
scrutiny from the media and the Privacy Commissioners. Much
of the Act dealt with transportation security questions,
such as the provision of airline passenger data to the
federal police and intelligence services (RCMP and CSIS). A
key issue in this context was the extent to which this data
might be used not just for counter-terrorist purposes, but
for broader law enforcement and surveillance. Again, the
Privacy Commissioner stressed that if this were to occur, it
should be done transparently and not hidden behind a "mask"
of counter-terrorism. The Act also touched on other privacy
issues, such as federal authorities' access to financial
records of non-governmental organizations.

STATUS AND NEXT STEPS
---------------------

11. At the beginning of 2004, PIPEDA became applicable
across the private sector, i.e. to all personal data
gathered in the course of commercial activity. Enforcement
of PIPEDA (and its provincial equivalents) is complaints-
driven and is expected to be constrained by the size of
Privacy Commissioners' staffs. The Public Safety Act became
law on May 6, 2004. The appropriate use of airline
passenger data continues to be discussed both within Canada
and between U.S. and Canadian authorities.

12. GOC privacy concerns and constitutional constraints
present significant barriers to information sharing with the
U.S. law enforcement community. In 2002, as part of our
efforts to facilitate the Border Action Plan, Embassy
recommended a joint USG-GOC review of privacy regimes in
order to provide for effective law enforcement, national
security, the rule of law, and protection of constitutional
liberties.

13. While the Public Safety Act was before Parliament in
2002-2004, Embassy made efforts to raise the level and
frequency of our contacts with the federal Office of the
Privacy Commissioner (OPC). These efforts - and the work of
the Office - were disrupted by an administrative and
financial scandal at OPC in 2003, and we intend to renew
them in coming months.

CELLUCCI

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