In Canada, the federal private sector privacy legislation, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), came into force on January 1, 2001. 

Since January 2001, PIPEDA has applied to federally regulated companies, such as airlines, banking, broadcasting, interprovincial transportation and telecommunications. Since January 1, 2004, PIPEDA has applied to every organization that collects, uses or discloses personal information in the course of a commercial activity. However, the federal government may exempt organizations and/or activities within provinces that have adopted privacy legislation that is substantially similar to PIPEDA. PIPEDA was amended by the Digital Privacy Act in 2015, with privacy breach notification and reporting rules under PIPEDA came into force in November 2018.

For the public sector at the federal level, the Privacy Act governs the handling of personal information by government bodies. Provincial government bodies are governed by the Freedom of Information laws.



The purpose of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, effective January 1, 2001, is to provide Canadians with a right of privacy with respect to their personal information that is collected, used or disclosed by an organization in the private sector in an era in which technology increasingly facilitates the collection and free flow of information.

The privacy principles in Schedule 1 of PIPEDA are taken from the Canadian Standards Association’s Model Code for the Protection of Personal Information, recognized as a national standard in 1996. The code’s 10 principles are:

1. Accountability: An organization is responsible for personal information under its control and shall designate an individual or individuals who are accountable for the organization’s compliance with the following principles.

2. Identifying Purposes: The purposes for which personal information is collected shall be identified by the organization at or before the time the information is collected.

3. Consent: The knowledge and consent of the individual are required for the collection, use or disclosure of personal information, except when inappropriate.

4. Limiting Collection: The collection of personal information shall be limited to that which is necessary for the purposes identified by the organization. Information shall be collected by fair and lawful means.

5. Limiting Use, Disclosure, and Retention: Personal information shall not be used or disclosed for purposes other than those for which it was collected, except with the consent of the individual or as required by the law. Personal information shall be retained only as long as necessary for fulfilment of those purposes.

6. Accuracy: Personal information shall be as accurate, complete, and up-to-date as is necessary for the purposes for which it is to be used.

7. Safeguards: Personal information shall be protected by security safeguards appropriate to the sensitivity of the information.

8. Openness: An organization shall make readily available to individuals specific information about its policies and practices relating to the management of personal information.

9. Individual Access: Upon request, an individual shall be informed of the existence, use and disclosure of his or her personal information and shall be given access to that information. An individual shall be able to challenge the accuracy and completeness of the information and have it amended as appropriate.

10. Challenging Compliance: An individual shall be able to address a challenge concerning compliance with the above principles to the designated individual or individuals for the organization’s compliance.


The Privacy Act, which took effect on July 1, 1983, imposes obligations on some 250 federal government departments and agencies to respect privacy rights by limiting the collection, use and disclosure of personal information.

The Privacy Act gives individuals the right to access and request correction of personal information about themselves held by these federal government organizations.


In the provinces, freedom of information laws speak to the privacy obligations of provincial governments. There are also private sector and health information-specific privacy laws in some provinces.

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