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(OTTAWA) – January 22, 2019 – Big data represents a potential windfall of $30-billion for Canada by 2021 if federal decision-makers get the policy framework right, says the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s recent report, Data Fast Forward: A Prescription for Innovation, Balance and Trust.

Released today, the Chamber’s report comes as the federal government is reviewing Canada’s data governance laws and outlines how Canada can position itself as a global data innovation sweet spot with a policy approach that lands between the restrictive European regime and the laissez-faire US approach.

“Big data is a cornerstone of innovation and leading-edge jobs in almost every sector of the economy,” said the Honourable Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. “Canada has already established itself as a world leader in using big data to create new technologies, new industries and to innovate in some of our more traditional industries. However, if we truly want to leverage the opportunity it presents, attract billions in investment or create more new jobs and industries, we need to get our approach to data regulation right. Our approach has to respect citizens’ right to privacy, without unnecessarily stifling innovation.”

The report reminds the federal government that Canada’s privacy legislation (the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act or PIPEDA), is an important element of a data strategy, and it has been the ideal model for privacy policy across the globe for over 15 years because of its principles-based approach.

As lawmakers consider Canada’s approach to a data strategy for Canada, we should not forget that PIPEDA currently strikes the best balance in the world between maximising the value of aggregate behavioral data and protecting private individual data.

“The Chamber’s report is about three things: how do we build trust around data usage, hold our government accountable to those same laws, and how do we keep the door open to innovation. Our current data governance approach already responds to 90 per cent of these needs. It is critical that the federal government resist the urge to have an overactive regulatory imagination. Let’s fix only what needs fixing,” said Scott Smith, Senior Director of Intellectual Property & Innovation Policy, and author of the report. 

The report cautions against the government overreaching and adopting a prescriptive approach to a data governance framework, which could have devastating impacts on Canada’s technology sectors. Instead, the Chamber advocates for Canada’s data governance to remain focused on how we can continue to position Canada as a great data innovation hub of the world.

Smith added that “as the pace of digital transformation accelerates, the ability of companies to collect and use data will only grow in importance. Canada needs to carefully consider how to maintain the competitive balance that is fundamental to PIPEDA with the urge of privacy advocates to engage legal frameworks as barriers to the invasion of personal privacy. We witnessed the unintended consequences of overreach in Europe with the General Data Protection Regulation, so Canada has the benefit of a case study to that effect. Europe’s prescriptive approach contrasted with the US’ tolerance for risk is our competitive advantage, so Canada cannot afford to get this wrong.”

Data Fast Forward makes the argument that the overwhelming majority of data processed by companies to predict behavior and create new products and services is scrubbed of identity and no longer personal information. For the remaining data that is both personal and private, Canada has a robust and principles-based piece of legislation in PIPEDA that remains relevant and best in class.

The report follows upon two supporting reports, Data for Good: The $32-billion Boost and A Data Deficit: The Risk of Getting it Wrong, which outline the tremendous opportunity that data innovation offers to Canada and the pitfalls of public perception of corporations affected by breaches, respectively.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is the vital connection between business and the federal government. It helps shape public policy and decision-making to the benefit of businesses, communities and families across Canada with a network of over 450 chambers of commerce and boards of trade, representing 200,000 businesses of all sizes in all sectors of the economy and in all regions. News and information are available at Chamber.ca or follow us on Twitter @CdnChamberofCom.

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For more information, please contact:

Phil Taylor
Senior Director, Strategic Communications and Public Affairs
ptaylor@chamber.ca (preferred and fastest response time)
613.238.4000 (2231)