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Opportunity for a privacy law that works for consumers, businesses

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Early on during the pandemic, at a time when they were feeling most vulnerable, Ontarians reacted with disgust to reports of stores charging sky-high prices for disinfectant wipes. The government responded quickly with an emergency order prohibiting businesses from charging grossly unfair prices for necessary goods.

Ontarians could breathe a sigh of relief, knowing we are protected from predatory pricing. But what protection do we have against predatory practices involving our personal information? Unlike other provinces that have their own private-sector privacy laws, Ontario does not. Businesses here are subject to a decades-old federal law, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).

Many criticize PIPEDA for not keeping pace with digital technology and lacking enforcement teeth. Meanwhile, privacy laws emerging around the world provide for binding orders and administrative penalties. But a modern private-sector privacy law is about more than punishing the bad. It’s also about encouraging the good.

It recognizes modern business realities of different-sized organizations and aims to solve problems rather than add to the regulatory load. It levels out the playing field, requiring all businesses to be fully transparent about what they do with people’s data and to come clean in the event of breaches.

A forward-looking privacy law creates space for public-private partnerships, supporting ethical research and innovation to address some of society’s most pressing health, social and economic problems.

It respects consumers as human beings, not just bits and bytes. It requires businesses to explain, in simple ways, the risks and benefits of online products and services. It supports informed consumer choices, helping build trust and confidence in the marketplace.

While a modern privacy framework respects privacy through meaningful consent, it is also practical and realistic.

It allows for…

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