Ontario seeks new data laws following Statistics Canada controversy

Published: November 30, 2018

Updated: December 3, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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Data breaches are becoming increasingly common and don’t just affect small businesses that have not shored up their cyber. Indeed, major corporations and government agencies are often targeted, as recent breaches revealed by Marriott Hotels and a Statistics Canada plan have shown. As a result of consistent cyber threats, Ontario is changing its data laws.

The province has announced legislation to make sharing consumer banking information harder. The stricter approach is nearing law and would potentially protect customer data more robustly than current laws.

“Financial data is especially vulnerable to hacking,” Stephen Crawford, Ontario MPP for Oakville, said Thursday at Queen’s Park in Toronto. “In the past 10 years, the number of attacks has increased greatly, including a data breach that impacted Home Depot in 2014; in 2017, Equifax was impacted by a data breach as well.”

New legislation is packaged as Bill 55, which seeks to amend the Consumer Protection Act to require consumer consent before a lending company can pass financial information to a government organization. Bill 55 passed its second reading earlier this week.

“We live in a very different world than 30 years ago or even five or 10 years ago. We need to update our laws, particularly with respect to consumer protection, to be in modern times, so that we can protect our consumers and banking information,” Crawford said Thursday.

Bill 55 was tabled as the Safeguarding our Information Act and is a private member’s bill created by Crawford. The Progressive Conservative backbencher drafted the bill following Statistics Canada said it would mandate financial companies to provide it with banking information from 500,000 households across Canada.

An investigation has been started into that decision, with many shocked by Statistics Canada’s plans. One MPP who could not believe the idea was Faisal Hassan, the NDP MPP for York South-Weston.

“Statistics Canada has told the public that it anonymizes information after they aggregate the financial data with the geographical data, but it is alarming to consider what could happen to the data in the process of being transferred and aggregated,” Hassan said Thursday.