New privacy bill to introduce rules for personal data, AI use

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The federal Liberals plan to introduce privacy legislation today to give Canadians more control over their personal data and introduce new rules for the use of artificial intelligence.

The bill, to be presented by Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, aims to fulfil his mandate to advance the federal digital charter, strengthen privacy protections for consumers and provide clear rules for fair competition in the online marketplace.

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The digital charter spells out 10 principles that range from ensuring control over information to meaningful penalties for misuse of data.

The legislation is expected to revive some threads of a previous bill, introduced by the Liberals in late 2020, that did not become law.

That bill would have required companies to obtain consent from customers through plain language, not a long legal document, before using their personal data.

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It also aimed to ensure Canadians could demand their information on social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter be permanently deleted.

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The bill would have armed the federal privacy commissioner with order-making powers, including the ability to demand that a company stop collecting data or using personal information, and to recommend that a planned tribunal impose a fine.

It did not, however, heed long-standing calls from privacy and accountability advocates to have the federal law governing personal information explicitly apply to political parties.

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Daniel Therrien, who long pushed for reforms as federal privacy commissioner, criticized the previous bill as “a step back overall” from the current law.

It would give consumers less control and organizations more flexibility in monetizing personal data without increasing their accountability, he said in May of last year, before the legislation expired upon the general election call.

Therrien, whose term as commissioner recently ended, also said the legislation put commercial interests ahead of the privacy rights of people, and he advocated adopting a framework that would entrench privacy as a human right.

Philippe Dufresne, the government’s nominee to replace Therrien, told a House of Commons committee this week the coming bill must recognize privacy as a “fundamental right.”

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