As social services agencies across the province expand their virtual service delivery offerings and digital capabilities during the COVID-19 Pandemic Period, issues at top of mind include data protection, consent, and transparency on the use, collection and disclosure of personal. Ontario’s privacy legislation has significant gaps and the federal Personal Information and Electronic Documents Act (“PIPEDA”) only applies to organizations collecting, using, or disclosing personal information in the course of “commercial activities.” This has resulted in data protection gaps and practical uncertainties for individuals and organizations alike.
Recently, the Ontario government announced it would be launching public consultations in an effort to improve the province’s privacy protection laws. A discussion paper setting out a roadmap of the government’s focus areas for privacy reform was also released.
Importantly, the proposed legislation would be expanded to apply to not-for-profits and charities.
The government is seeking feedback on the following key issues:
- Transparency: Providing Ontarians more details about how their information is being used by organizations.
- Consent: Clarity on provisions allowing individuals to revoke consent at any time, and adopting an “opt-in” model for secondary uses of their information. Similar to existing PIPEDA requirements, organizations will be required to provide “clear and plain language” information about what information is collected, how it will be collected, how it will be used and with which third parties the information will be shared so that individuals have a better understanding of how their information is being used and collected. Recognizing the realities of increased use and collection of individual data, separate individual consent would only be required for information practices not included in an organization’s stated primary purposes through the proposed “opt-in” rule.
- Access: Giving individuals the right to request that information related to them be deleted (also known as “erasure” or “the right to be forgotten”) and the right to access their data in a standard, portable digital format. This will provide individuals greater freedom to change service providers without losing their data. It is important to note that erasure rights are not absolute and will be subject to certain limitations.
- Enforcement: Empowering the Ontario Information Privacy Commissioner with oversight, compliance and enforcement powers (including the ability to impose penalties when necessary). Developing a framework for different sizes of organizations to establish a robust privacy and cybersecurity regime.
- Innovation: Developing clear guidelines on the collection and use of deidentified information (i.e. removing name and age, address) and data derived from personal information (i.e. insights about people supported based on program attendance, preferences). Reimagining data governance models for agencies, to allow for regulated data sharing between organizations and sectors (i.e. “data trusts” where organizations agree to appoint one individual to act as a data custodian to access and share data in accordance with specific data sharing rules).
This is an important opportunity for DS Sector agencies to look at your existing privacy practices and the successes and challenges you have had in new digital environments. The online survey will remain open until October 1, 2020.
PooranLaw will continue to monitor legislative developments. We encourage you to reach out to your regular PooranLaw lawyer or any or any member of our team. to help guide you in developing effective practices and procedures when collecting, using, disclosing and storing personal information.
Note: This article provides general information only and does not constitute, and should not be relied upon as, legal advice or opinion. PooranLaw Professional Corporation holds the copyright to this article and the article and its contents may not be copied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of PooranLaw Professional Corporation.