Canada: Mere Compliance With Privacy Requirements By Corporations May No Longer Be Enough


The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (''OPC'') recently published a research paper entitled ''Privacy and Cyber Security: Emphasizing privacy protection in cyber security activities'' in which are outlined the common interests and tensions between privacy and cyber security. The report sets out key policy indications with a view to generating dialogue on cyber security as an important element of online protection, while acknowledging that cyberspace governance is a global issue.


The OPC bases its report on the following factual premises. As technologies facilitating access to the Internet have become increasingly entrenched in everyday life, we increasingly depend on the cyberspace for a whole range of critical social and economic interactions. This ever-increasing reliance on cyberspace creates new and significant vulnerabilities which have in turn set the stage for increasingly sophisticated and targeted threats. This risk is magnified, in part, by the storing and processing of electronic data on a massive scale.

Privacy protection and cyber security should be thought of as interconnected

The report explains that as the volume of personal data stored online increases, privacy protection increasingly relies on effective cyber security implementation by organizations to ensure data protection. However, certain cyber security efforts may also threaten and even violate privacy – for example, real-time monitoring of activities on a network could involve the capture and analysis of massive amounts of confidential and personal information. This is referred to as the ''big data paradox'' which begs the question: ''is big data a greater risk to privacy or a solution to prevent cyber security breaches and thus a solution to protect personal and confidential data ?''. Obviously, proponents of massive data storage believe that the insights derived from big data analysis will provide a solution to most problems, while others raise concerns about the security vulnerabilities inherent to stocking so much information (a veritable ''commercial asset'' coveted by cyber attackers). An additional concern is that ''big data begets big data'' – as the capabilities to collect data increase, so does the temptation to do so. Big Data will give birth to ever Bigger Data.

The private sector's responsibility

The report submits that recent studies have indicated that ''a large number of businesses are unprepared for, and indifferent to, cyber threats, and lack proper contingency plans''. This leads us to the question of ''compliance vs. risk-management''. While organization are required to comply with laws and regulations across varying jurisdictions, it has become clear that a mechanical approach consisting of ''blindly pursuing compliance'' does not necessarily mean than the organization is secure. In fact, blind compliance might lead to a false sense of security. The challenge for the private sector, which carries significant responsibility for cyber security as the depositary of much of the data stored in cyberspace, is ''to understand that security is not simply a matter of meeting minimal compliance standards, but rather, a question of engaging in effective risk management and dynamic implementation of security''. Effective compliance does not mean that an organisation has implemented the reasonable measures or industry standards with respect to cybersecurity risk management.

Cyber security policy developments

Seemingly divergent views of cyber security have emerged: the ''open commons approach'' favours a harmonized approach to governance which protects openness, privacy and interoperability across regions while the ''gated community approach'' advocates stronger governmental control and regulatory landscape.

With regards to governmental policies on cyber security, a chief concern expressed in the report is that national security and public safety preoccupations have historically overridden privacy protection imperatives. The OPC adopts the view that cyber security should not expand surveillance to the detriment of individuals' privacy, civil liberties or other democratically held rights and values. The alternative approach, the ''broader stewardship model'' recognises that cyber security is a shared responsibility because of the way all of the involved parties (from government and corporations to the average user) are interconnected and interdependent. The report concludes that a complementary approach may be best as both views have their merits.

Cyberspace governance and security must also be treated as a global issue because the information flowing through cyberspace is not constrained by national borders. The Action Plan 2010-2015 for Canada's Cyber Security (published by Public Safety Canada) called on the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada to align its foreign cyber policy with broader foreign policy, international trade and security objectives. For their part, international groups (such as the G8 and the OECD) are developing principles in support of the right to cyberspace access, openness, freedom of expression and user privacy; principles which are sometimes at odds with domestic national security objectives.

As cyber policy directions develop, privacy and data protection authorities, such as the OPC, have to play a role in reinforcing privacy rights and values and ensuring that privacy rights as well as confidential personal information protection are respected.


The OPC aptly notes, ''as individuals grow more dependent on and connected to the cyberspace, they will become more reliant on organizations' effective implementation of cyber security and sensitivity to privacy''. In conclusion, the report outlines key areas in which an increased emphasis on privacy protection could help advance cyber security activities. First, it is essential for privacy values be built into cyber security policy directions. A balance must be struck between the monitoring and analysis of confidential and personal information and actual cyber security requirements, as ''violating people's privacy in the interest of ensuring cyber security would defeat the very purpose of cyber security''. Second, for legislative approaches to be effective, they must incentivize security preparedness. Unquestionably, the private sector will bear significant responsibility and be faced with complex challenges in protecting the cyberspace in a legal landscape where accountability for personal information protection will be paramount. Generating dialogue with the private sector on the vital components of cyber security implementation will undoubtedly be part of an effective strategy.

The report concludes that the complexities of cyberspace and the mounting sophistication of threats require that organizations do more about privacy protection – it is no longer enough to simply be compliant with privacy requirements or technical standards to the minimum extent possible. Maximum effect will need to be given to major privacy principles such as: accountability, transparency, data minimization, ensuring appropriate use and disclosure, implementing effective access controls, and abiding by reasonable retention periods and safe destruction methods. The onus is on all stakeholders, on a global scale, to shape cyberspace and its security following a stewardship approach and on a foundation of enduring trust.

To view original article, please click here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions