The Toronto Star
Wednesday, September 16, 1998

Protect Consumer Privacy: MacKay

by Jennifer Ditchburn

OTTAWA (CP) -- The personal information Canadians provide to financial institutions when applying for services should be protected by more than just voluntary standards, a report on the industry said yesterday.

Federal and provincial lawmakers need to devise privacy legislation with teeth, including civil redress for consumers who have been burned, Harold MacKay's task force on financial services recommended.

"The task force agrees with the public expectation that privacy of personal information is a fundamental right and is of the view that basic minimum standards should be legislated ...", the report said.

In fact, Ottawa is scheduled to release draft legislation within the next month to deal with the hot issue of protecting personal information in the private sector and has been trying to harmonize its efforts with provinces.

Only Quebec has a set of privacy laws governing business.

Privacy has become a buzzword in private and government circles this decade with the rise of more sophisticated computer methods of collecting information and using it for marketing purposes.

With the strong possibility that bank branches will start selling insurance and leasing cars, there's an even greater worry that there will be more sharing of data, including medical details.

Sandra Kahaly, a senior policy adviser for Industry Canada's electronic commerce task force, said consumers have supported the government's initiative, but industry has expressed concerns about burdensome new legislation.

"I think we have managed to strike the balance, to achieve the kind of protection consumers are looking for with the kind of light-handed approach that business was concerned to ensure", she said.

Federal proposals will include the widely accepted privacy code developed by the Canadian Standards Association, endorsed in the MacKay report.

Copyright © 1998 by The Canadian Press. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.