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Mandatory privacy breach notification requirement inevitable

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December 15, 2009

For years now, Ontario’s Personal Health Information Protection Act has contained provisions requiring health custodians to notify individuals if their personal health information is stolen, lost or accessed by unauthorized persons.  Until now, such mandatory privacy breach notification provisions have been limited to the sphere of health care in Ontario. That’s about to change.

The federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act will likely contain mandatory privacy breach notification provisions in the near future. Since 2006, Special Committees at both the Federal and Provincial (Alberta and B.C.) levels have convened and generated a series of recommendations relating to breach notification.  For further information on these recommendations, see the final reports of the Federal , Alberta and B.C. committees.

The most important recommendation independently generated by each of the committees provides that organizations should be under a statutory breach notification duty.  On October 27, 2009, the initial step toward implementing this recommendation was taken in the Alberta Legislature with the first reading of Bill 54: Personal Information Protection Amendment Act, 2009.  The Alberta privacy breach notification provisions will soon come into force. British Columbia and the Feds are expected to follow suit and implement similar requirements in the near future. When that occurs, private sector organizations across Canada will be required by applicable law to notify affected individuals when privacy breaches occur.

The best advice is to make sure that privacy protection policies, procedures and training are implemented and enforced… now.