Canadians want tougher privacy laws, and they want government and businesses to be more upfront about how they collect and use personal information, according to a new survey commissioned by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) of Canada.
Most Canadians support amendments to the Privacy Act, which covers the personal information-handling practices of federal government institutions, the survey revealed.
In addition, Canadians widely support requiring government institutions to safeguard the personal information they collect about Canadians (78%) and expanding the Privacy Act to the prime minister’s office and the offices of cabinet ministers (71%). Another 69% said they support granting the privacy commissioner order-making power to enforce recommendations made following an investigation, while 66% think government institutions should be required to assess the privacy risks of any new program or law.
“Canadians agree it’s time to modernize the Privacy Act, which has gone largely unchanged since it was introduced in 1983,” said Commissioner Daniel Therrien, who recently proposed a series of amendments that a parliamentary committee largely supported.
In the survey of 1,500 Canadians, 92% were concerned about the protection of their privacy.
Nearly two-thirds said they don’t know what is being done by government with their personal information and seven in 10 Canadians said intelligence and law enforcement agencies should report publicly on how often they request personal information from telecommunications companies without judicial oversight.
A majority of Canadians (81%) expressed concern about government monitoring for national security reasons, although half said they don’t believe intelligence and law enforcement agencies have sufficient powers to collect private information from citizens.
When it comes to business transactions, Canadians expressed support for measures that would give them more control over personal information collected online.
For example, 86% agree websites should seek their consent for targeted advertising. Given that just four in 10 admitted to reading privacy policies before downloading mobile applications, it seems the OPC’s ongoing discussions about how to make consent more meaningful are much needed.
Canadians also believe businesses should be more accountable, with seven in 10 saying they would be more willing to do business with companies if they were subject to strict financial penalties for misusing their personal information. Fifty-one percent said they’ve taken their business elsewhere because of concerns about a company’s privacy practices.
“Clearly explaining how personal information is collected, used, and protected is crucial to building public confidence and trust, whether it’s in your company brand or the very institution of government,” Therrien said.
Results of the survey are available here.