What is Privacy Rights Law?

With respect to your right to privacy, do you understand the law in Canada?  Privacy rights law in Canada relates to your personal information and how different agencies, including government agencies can use that information.  When you consider how often you share personal information and the diverse range of organizations and institutions that receive this information, it should come as no surprise that privacy law in Canada is quite complex.  While the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms sets out the basic human rights to which all Canadians are entitled, it does not explicitly outline privacy rights.  Instead, the Privacy Act of 1983 is the first legislation to outline our rights to privacy.  Let’s have a closer look.

The Privacy Act in its original form speaks directly to how the federal government and associated institutions collect and use personal information as well as enforcing an individual’s right to access their information as held by the government.  In very broad terms, the Privacy Act sets forth fair practices for information collection and sharing.  Under the Privacy Act,

  • The government can only collect personal information that relates directly to program operations or activities,
  • In most cases, the government must inform an individual when their information is collected,
  • In most cases, the government can only use information for the purposes initially stated unless an individual provides consent,
  • In most cases, personal information held by the government cannot be disclosed to other parties,
  • Canadian citizens have the right to access their personal information, and
  • The Privacy Commissioner of Canada ensures the Act is applied appropriately.

Given technological advances and the changing nature of personal information, there have also been significant changes to the act.  For example, an individual’s right to access their private information was introduced as the Access to Information Act in 1985.  In addition, the Freedom of Information Act of 1996 was implemented to improve government accountability and individual protections.  Essentially, the Freedom of Information Act clarifies and expands on some of the principles of the previous two Acts.  The Freedom of Information Act provides public access to government records not otherwise protected b the Privacy Act, provides individuals an opportunity to correct their personal information, and prevents unauthorized dissemination of personal information of personal information across public organizations.

Of course, thus far we have only discussed your privacy laws insofar as they relate to government collection of personal information.  However, there are also protections for how private sector organizations use your information.  Federally, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act regulates data privacy and private-sector collection and use of personal information.  As you can see, protecting your privacy is a complicated matter which is why it is important to work with legal professionals whenever you have concerns about your personal information.

DISCLAIMER: The content of this article, and this website generally, is not intended as legal advice and cannot be relied upon as legal advice.  To provide legal advice on your problem, a lawyer must first understand your specific situation.

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