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86% of Canadians support requirements to keep their data in Canada: report

Canada must coordinate an international approach that contributes to greater data sovereignty, according to the report



TORONTO — In its recent discussion paper and survey, the Cybersecure Policy Exchange at Ryerson University analyzes where current social media companies store Canadian’s data, compares international privacy legislation and provides three policy options to enhance Canadian trust and security online.

In its discussion paper, Home Ice Advantage: Securing Data Sovereignty for Canadians on Social Media, Cybersecure Policy Exchange found that:

  • Many popular platforms, such as Facebook and TikTok, transfer data to a variety of jurisdictions, and none specifically cite Canada as a country of storage.
  • Canadian privacy law does not require users to consent to personal data transfer outside of Canada or require meaningfully enforced limits on transferring to jurisdictions with insufficient protections for surveillance or unauthorized access of Canadians’ personal data.
  • An overwhelming majority (86%) of Canadians support a requirement to keep their data within Canadian borders.
  • On a scale of zero to ten, 49% of Canadians rate their trust of Facebook between zero and three despite it being the most used platform in Canada (69%).

The research demonstrates that most social media platforms’ privacy policies do not disclose precisely which jurisdiction they store, process and transfer the personal data of a given user. It also shows that existing protections in Canada have proven inadequate to rapidly changing circumstances outside our borders. The new discussion paper argues that Canada must coordinate an international approach that contributes to greater data sovereignty or else they will get caught in the legal crossfire between Europe, the United States, and China — and Canadians security and privacy online will suffer.

“Canadians are looking for answers on how their private and sensitive data are being protected outside our borders. The federal government has an opportunity to modernize our privacy law to do just that,” said Sam Andrey, director of policy and research at the Ryerson Leadership Lab, in a prepared statement. “Canadians should have transparent information to inform their decisions, assurance that the jurisdictions where their data is transferred protect and enforce their rights, and they should have confidence that their most sensitive data will never be compromised.”

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To help address some of these concerns, the discussion paper also outlines three policy options for the federal government to enhance Canadians’ trust and security online.

  • Comparable Protection: Provide precise requirements and enforcement to ensure personal data collected and shared through social media receives comparable levels of protection when transferred outside of Canada;
  • Consent: Require social media platforms to obtain explicit consent from Canadians for the transfer of their personal data to jurisdictions that do not provide comparable protection as well as provide information about the specific data and countries involved; and
  • Sensitive Data: Better define and provide greater security protections for sensitive personal data, such as private messages and biometric data.


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