Earlier this month, the Conference Board of Canada released a report analysing the economic costs and
benefits of privacy regulation in Canada. The Conference
Board's report was prepared with financial support from Google
The report is an attempt to frame the discussion relating to
privacy regulation in terms of a cost-benefit analysis. The report
is timely given that there are proposed legislative amendments to
Canada's Personal Information Protection and Electronic
Documents Act ("PIPEDA") pending before Parliament and
given that PIPEDA should be up for a legislated five-year
As the Conference Board report notes, the Federal Cabinet Directive on Streamlining
Regulation requires (among other things) that policy options be
evaluated on a cost-benefit basis and that proposed regulations
must impose the least possible cost necessary to achieve the
intended policy objectives. In assessing the costs of privacy
regulation, the Conference Board stated that:
It estimated the total cost of administering privacy regulation
in Canada is approximately Cdn. $3.8 billion annually (estimated
using a privacy cost-to-revenue ratio derived from a U.S. study and
a privacy sensitivity analysis by industry sector).
Most of these costs are "hidden in process and
administration costs, changes to business processes, and impacts on
innovation and market efficiency".
Of the more transparent costs, the Conference Board estimated
that federal and provincial privacy offices cost approximately Cdn.
$40 million annually and many large Canadian companies have set up
dedicated privacy offices that incur costs estimated by the
Conference Board to be approximately Cdn. $67.5 million
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