Reforming Canada’s Privacy Legislation: Does it Take a Pandemic?

  • February 27, 2021
  • Imtiaz Karamat

The following was written by Imtiaz Karamat, student-at-law at Deeth Williams Wall LLP. This post first appeared on the IPilogue and was reposted with the author's permission.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Canadians to stay at home and rely on their devices for far more essential services than they did in the past. The increased demand for digital tools has boosted innovation, fast-tracking the creation of new technology to assist Canadians in different aspects of their daily lives. Unfortunately, Canada’s privacy laws have not undergone similar upgrades to be compatible with our current lifestyle. This has left Canadians vulnerable to the privacy risks that stem from their expanded use of technology.

Canada’s Increased Reliance on Technology in the Pandemic

The necessity for social distancing during the pandemic has made Canadians more reliant on technology for social, occupational, and healthcare purposes. Instead of meeting in-person, friends and family plan virtual meetups through videoconferencing services and other online platforms. Technology is regularly used by employees working-from-home to fulfill their responsibilities without entering the workplace. It is also useful for students, who can pursue e-learning from the safety of their homes. Our healthcare framework has even shifted from visiting the doctor’s office for medical concerns to using telemedicine platforms to communicate with healthcare practitioners.

Although we have upgraded our lifestyle to incorporate technology in everyday interactions, Canada’s privacy laws have not been updated to fit our data-driven society. Prior to the pandemic, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) issued several statements urging the federal government to reform its privacy legislation to combat risks associated with our antiquated legal framework. However, little has been done in response to these statements. With Canadians growing more digitally dependent during the pandemic, the gaps in Canada’s privacy infrastructure are becoming more prominent.