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Canada Considers Amending Privacy Laws to Better Manage Online Reputation

Froese Law’s philosophy is that every individual and every company has a brand. In some instances, elevating an individual’s brand (such as the CEO, influencer, fitness guru, chef, magazine editor, etc.) indirectly flows through to elevating the company’s brand, and vice versa. Such branding interplay creates merchandising opportunities, licensing revenues and increased exposure. At the root of this is careful, strategic placement of both the individual and corporate brands. In today’s online social media world, this makes any personal reputation blunders that more important to manage.

What is PIPEDA?

PIPEDA, the acronym for Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, is a federal legislation that governs how companies manage, collect, use and disclose third party personal information gathered in Canada in the course of a commercial transaction. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (“OPC”) is considering whether the current provisions are sufficient, or need bolstering.

What are the Relevant Provisions in PIPEDA Dealing with Reputational Management?

Provisions of PIPEDA provide individuals with recourse to remove old and/or inaccurate information from the internet. However, PIPEDA does not provide individuals with an absolute right of removal. An individual can only seek to challenge the publication of information on the basis of accuracy or appropriateness.

What Steps is the OPC Taking?

The OPC has issued a draft policy, wherein it is seeking stakeholder input on the current status of PIPEDA’s ability to protect online reputation, or whether provisions of the Act should be bolstered. Specifically, the OPC is considering whether there are sufficient mechanisms to enforce against content published on the internet, where there are reputational concerns. In addition, the OPC queries whether PIPEDA should be applicable to search engines. The OPC also considers lowering the threshold for enforcement related to personal information pertaining to youth. In addition, youth could be able to request the removal of personal information posted about them by their parents/guardians.

What Could Be the Outcome?

As we have seen with other government-led consultations that deal with legislative revisions, this is normally a lengthy process. First, the OPC will need to determine what stakeholders feedback is and from there determine what legislative changes should be made. Second, the OPC will need to consider how such legislative changes (if any) will be made. Are revisions to PIPEDA sufficient? Or should a new piece of legislation be specifically created that addresses online reputational management? Either way, changing or introducing new laws by the government is a laborious, political and arduous process.

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