Powers and Functions of the Ombudsman in the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act: An Effectiveness Study
France HOULE and Lorne SOSSIN
Research commissioned by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
The Privacy Commissioner gave us a mandate, under subsection 58(2) of the Privacy Act, to conduct an analysis of the law and policies underlying the protection of personal information by the private sector.
The overall objective of this research contract is to examine the structure, mandate and powers that have been assigned to the OPC, as instituted by the Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).
Under the terms of our contract, our analytical perspective is to conduct an effectiveness study of Part I of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner wants to know our opinion on the following general question: Is the ombudsman (or “Ombuds”) model effective in regulating private-sector practices for the protection of personal information? More specifically, the OPC first asked us to examine the public policies underlying the origin of the Act and the history of the legal framework to date, and to analyze the functions and powers assigned to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner as well as their use by the commissioners appointed to that public office since the passage of PIPEDA. The objective of these analyses is to assess the impact of that use on compliance by the organizations subject to the Act. The next task, based on our findings on any problems identified, is to examine other Canadian and foreign institutional models (also created to regulate the use of personal information by private-sector organizations) from a comparative perspective to develop recommendations for reform.
The ideas and analyses contained in this report are intended to promote reflection on possible ways to improve protection of the personal information of citizens and permanent and foreign residents living and working in Canada, doing business here, or consuming goods and services produced by large, medium and small Canadian businesses. We hope that our analysis will generate debate and interaction among governments, industries, experts and consumers. Given the complexity of federal, provincial and supranational regulations in this area, our analyses are not, and do not claim to be, the final authority on this issue.