Tuesday, April 12, 2011

PIPEDA Due for an Update

The US Congress is now in process of considering updating its Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to deal with the impact of smart phones, social media and cloud computing. None of these areas were serious issues when the act was first written in 1986. In Canada we have the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). Although this act is newer, last updated in 2008, there may be a case for further update to reflect the fast changing issues around mobility, the cloud and social media.

Now those areas are huge. For example, the use of location based marketing and location based information for investigations have escalated greatly with the growing power of mobile units, bringing forward the question of just how private is a person's location at any point in time. Social media raises a host of issues around the provision of information about users on the sites, some of which have been addressed in Canada by the Privacy Commissioner, particularly in reference to the privacy practices of Facebook. However, the question is - does the act adequately address the issues arising from other social media?

The US Department of Justice objects to the Congressional thinking of updating the Act. They feel that the principles of privacy are adequately covered in the existing act. The Privacy Commissioner of Canada keeps a watching brief on these issues and the need for legislative changes. But the challenge is growing more complex daily. Are general principles enough?

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