The federal government has launched Canada’s new Digital Charter that comprises 10 broad principles to govern the use of data in the digital world. The stated purpose of the Digital Charter is to guide dialogue around changes in the laws governing Canadians' internet and digital use, and rebuild Canadians’ trust that their privacy is being protected.

The Digital Charter is said to “outline what Canadians can expect from the Government in relation to the digital landscape, addressing important issues like universal access and hate online” and to “leverage Canada’s unique talents and strengths in order to harness the power of digital and data transformation.” The 10 principles comprising the Digital Charter are as follows:

  1. Universal Access: all Canadians will have equal opportunity to participate in the digital world and will be given the necessary tools to do so.
  2. Safety and Security: Canadians will be able to rely on the integrity, authenticity and security of the services they use in order to feel safe online.
  3. Control and Consent: Canadians will have control over what data they are sharing and will be able to understand who is using their personal data.
  4. Transparency, Portability and Interoperability: Canadians will have access to their personal data and will be able to transfer data without undue burden.
  5. Open and Modern Digital Government: Canadians will be able to access modern digital services from the Government.
  6. A Level Playing Field: the Government will ensure fair competition in the online marketplace to facilitate growth in Canadian business and protect Canadian consumers from market abuses.
  7. Data and Digital for Good: the Government is committed to the ethical use of data to create value, promote openness to improve the lives of people globally.
  8. Strong Democracy: the Government will defend freedom of expression and protect against online threats designed to undermine Canada's democratic institutions.
  9. Free from Hate and Violent Extremism: Canadians can expect that digital platforms will not promote violent extremism or criminal content.
  10. Strong Enforcement and Real Accountability: meaningful penalties will be implemented for the violation of laws and regulations that support the Digital Charter.

As a first step, the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development announced an initial set of actions involving proposals to modernize the Personal Information Protections and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which governs the use Canadians' personal data by private corporations. The proposal to modernize PIPEDA is focused on issues such as enhanced enforcement and oversight, consent, data mobility (the ability of an individual to request that their personal information provided to one organization be provided to another organization), enhancing the ability of individuals to control their online reputation, and enabling responsible innovation.

The announcement of the Digital Charter and further changes to PIPEDA underscores the need for commercial organizations to understand their regulatory compliance requirements today so that they are positioned to adapt to the changes of tomorrow.