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Canadian businesses invested heavily in data privacy in 2020: study

Study finds significant privacy concerns stemming from the pandemic, fueled by rapid shift to remote work and the need to utilize health information of individuals


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A report released by Cisco found Canadian businesses spent on average US$3 million on privacy protections in 2020, well above the global average of US$2.3 million.

The 2021 Data Privacy Benchmark Study, Cisco’s fourth annual look into corporate privacy practices worldwide, highlights the importance of privacy protections during the pandemic, as well as the benefits for businesses that adopt strong privacy measures. On average, Canadian businesses saw US$3.4 billion in benefits thanks to their investments.

The mass-scale shifts in human interaction and digital engagement driven by the pandemic, presented many challenging data privacy issues for organizations who aim to follow the law, stop the spread of the pandemic, while also respecting individual rights. Consumers and the general public are growing increasingly concerned about how their personal data is being used. 90 per cent of Canadian organizations said their customers will not buy from them if their data is not well protected.

“Privacy has come of age — recognized as a fundamental human right and rising to a mission-critical priority for executive management,” said Dave Lewis, advisory chief information security officer, Cisco Canada, in a prepared statement. “And with the accelerated move to work from anywhere, privacy has taken on greater importance in driving digitization, corporate resiliency, agility, and innovation.

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The report also found that 77 per cent of Canadian businesses believe government privacy regulations have had a positive impact on setting a standard baseline for data protection, and has boosted confidence that personal data is being treated properly.

“This is consistent with what I’ve been hearing from CIOs across the country over the past year, and Canada is not alone — the same shift is happening all over the world,” said Lewis.

Other findings from the report include:

  • Privacy is much more than just a compliance issue as businesses now see it as a fundamental human right and a mission-critical C-suite priority.
    • 60 per cent of organizations say they weren’t prepared for privacy and security requirements involved in shift to remote work
    • 93 per cent of organizations turned to their privacy teams to help navigate these challenges
    • 87 per cent of consumers expressed concerns about the privacy protections of the tools they needed to use to work, interact and connect remotely
    • 90 per cent of organizations now reporting privacy metrics to their C-suites and boards
  • Most people are okay with sharing health information for workplace safety and pandemic response, but are uncomfortable with other uses such as research.
    • 57 per cent supported employers using data to help make workplaces safe, while less than half supported location tracking, contact tracing, disclosing information about infected individuals, and using individual information for research
  • Privacy and the larger cybersecurity ecosystem will play a key role in our road to economic growth and COVID-19 pandemic recovery.
    • As economies and communities begin to recover, many challenges will arise that will test how governments, companies, and individuals collect, manage and protect personal data while balancing individual rights with public interest