The Federal Government has announced the creation of a 10-point Digital Charter, which will involve, among other things, updating the Privacy Act. The Digital Charter will outline what Canadians can expect from both the government and the private sector as it relates to the digital landscape. This initiative is geared towards providing greater transparency in the ways that technology companies use personal data that they collect from Canadians. According to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains, this new development will build greater trust in the digital world by protecting citizens’ privacy and providing control of their data. This update will be implemented via a review of the Canada’s privacy laws, the Statistics Act, and the enforcement tools of the Competition Bureau, in conjunction with the development of a new Data Governance Standardization Collaborative to improve data governance standards.
In furtherance of the Digital Charter initiative, Minister Bains wrote to the new Commissioner of Competition outlining the Minister’s views on the Competition Bureau’s role in implementing this initiative. The Minister stresses the necessity to review the risks of data abuse and data monopolies given the increasing reliance on technological data by companies in order to establish a competitive advantage. Further, he outlines that it is crucial to also consider the potential for market distortions and disruptions that arise as a result of the collection, processing and use of data. He suggests that the Bureau work with the policy leads in the Strategy and Innovation Policy Sector to explore issues such as “the impact of digital transformation on competition, the emerging issues in data communication, transparency and control, the effectiveness of current competition policy tools and market frameworks, and the effectiveness of current investigative and judicial processes.” Consideration of these factors by the Bureau will be a significant input to the broader data and digital strategy underway and will foster greater trust in the digital marketplace.
It is noteworthy that the Minister is asking the Bureau, through a mandate letter, to co-lead this significant competition policy project despite the fact that the competition policy function has not been with the Bureau for some time. It remains to be seen whether this will mean an increase in resources for the Bureau from the government.