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Canadian Data Privacy Laws: An Overview

Canadian flag and tech image highlighting Canadian data privacy laws

Awareness and protections around how data containing private information is handled is ramping up across the globe, and Canada is no exception. Current data privacy laws in Canada include measures to protect individual privacy rights, transparency, access, and security. These laws are designed to give the public more control over how their personal and private information is used and secured by the government as well as by businesses and other organizations.

What is Data Privacy and Why Does it Matter?

In general data privacy is all that surrounds collecting and disseminating data, as well as what the public expects in terms of privacy and the legal and social issues around it. It matters because organizations are constantly striving to strike that fine balance between using data and protecting individual privacy and personally identifiable information (PII).

As more and more digital technology is adopted, consumers end up giving away more of their personal data. While that’s certainly a plus for organizations who need and use this knowledge, consumers can bear the risk when those entrusted with this information don’t properly protect it. A data breach can result in untold damages to individuals as well as to the organizations impacted by cybercrime, or even by simple human error.

Related Resource: Think Like a Hacker eBook

What are Canada’s Data Privacy Laws?

The Privacy Act

The Privacy Act applies to how federal government institutions can collect, use, and disclose an individual’s personal information. It also covers the right to access information held about oneself by the federal government and to correct any errors.

The Act is a key piece of Canada’s overall framework for protecting privacy interests. It grants the Privacy Commissioner the powers to audit federal government institutions to ensure compliance with the act and to investigate individual complaints about any breaches.

PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act)

This data privacy law focuses on how provincial and territorial private-sector businesses and organizations protect personal data. Some of the requirements include:

  • Asking for and securing consent whenever an individual’s personal information is gathered, used, or shared
  • Giving individuals the opportunity to view or correct their personal information
  • Storing and disposing of personal data appropriate

PIPEDA covers most Canadian businesses handling personal information, such as names, addresses, financial, and medical information, with the exception of provinces and territories where similar laws were already in place prior to the enactment of PIPEDA.

There are 10 main tenets to be followed, but in general, this act is about acting in good faith when it comes to securing and using personal information.

Related Reading: What is PIPEDA?

FIPS 140-2 or Federal Information Processing Standard

Canada, as well as the U.S., requires software solutions used by government entities and their trading partners to incorporate the cryptographic standard FIPS 140-2 when exchanging personal data for security.

FIPS 140-2 lays out the formal security requirements for governmental data use. The Communications Security Establishment Act (CSE Act)developed FIPS 140-2 alongside the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Software solutions that meet FIPS validation can:

  • Secure data in storage (at rest) via encryption and sanitization
  • Limit access to data through robust role-based user access
  • Safely transmit data through approved protocols, such as FTPS, HTTPS, or SFTP

On-Demand Webinar: Which Protocol Should You Use and When?

The CSE Act

The CSE Act is intended to uphold and strengthen cybersecurity throughout Canada. CSE supports cybersecurity efforts throughout Canadian government as well as by working with businesses, educational entities, and more throughout the provinces, territories and municipalities of Canada. These are the five primary mandates of the CSE:

  1. Collect and interpret data to offer advice, guidance, and services around cybersecurity in Canada
  2. Acquire and provide foreign intelligence information to support intelligence priorities for the Government of Canada
  3. Protect the data and infrastructure important to the Government of Canada
  4. Actively respond to and disrupt interference by foreign entities
  5. Support federal law and security agencies, as well as departments via technical and operational assistance

Related Reading: How to Help Ensure Compliance with Data Privacy Laws

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)


Mandated by credit card companies, this standard helps ensure the security of credit card transactions.

The set of industry requirements under PCI DSS is intended to ensure that all companies that process, store, or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment. Key requirements include firewalls, password protection, and encryption for data at rest and in transit.

Related Reading: PCI DSS Compliance for File Transfers

Proposed Data Privacy Law Would Add Heft to Existing PIPEDA

While not a Canadian law just yet (enactment is expected in 2021), the proposed Consumer Privacy Protection Act (CPPA) and its Digital Charter Implementation Act would zero in on giving more control and transparency over how data containing personal identifiers is used.

The CPPA is being compared to the stricter GDPR and California’s privacy regulations. If adopted, it would replace the existing PIPEDA and provide more stringent consumer protections. In addition, the proposed act would simplify the consent process and add more clarity to the role of third-party service providers.

Related Reading: What is the Digital Charter Implementation Act?

How to Comply with Canadian Data Privacy Laws with MFT

Organizations can more easily comply with secure file sharing and storage practices by using security tools such as a managed file transfer (MFT) solution that delivers strong encryption protocols, automation, and control for end-to-end security. Secure MFT, like GoAnywhere MFT, helps organizations follow the CSE’s requirements for cybersecurity by ensuring the data that is collected, processed, and stored while that data is at rest and while it is in motion.

Related Reading: How to Help Ensure Compliance with Data Privacy Laws

GoAnywhere MFT is a user-friendly, centralized solution that works within compliance frameworks, regulations, and standards. It provides an auditable solution for file transfers, secure email, management of user roles, and more. Whether deployed on-premises or in the cloud, GoAnywhere can help organizations manage, monitor and audit the control surrounding data to help ensure adherence to data privacy laws.


See MFT in Action

When it comes to meeting stringent data privacy laws, secure managed file transfer, such as GoAnywhere MFT, helps you do so with dashboard-friendly ease. After all, solutions that are easy to use are the ones that actually get used within organizations. See for yourself how MFT can help your organization with secure file transfers that meet Canada’s data privacy laws today and tomorrow with a customized live demonstration of GoAnywhere


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