Digital Privacy Act Protects Seniors from Financial Abuse

In April, the Harper Government tabled a bill in Parliament to further protect Canadians and especially seniors from financial abuse. The Digital Privacy Act lets financial organizations and banks notify authorities and next of kin if it looks like another person is abusing the account of an elderly client.

Between 4 and 10 percent of seniors are abused in some form, with only 1 in 5 of the incidents being reported. The Canadian government has multiple initiatives to combat elder abuse, including discussing ways to identify and report elder abuse on the Government of Canada website.

“Elder abuse is an appalling crime and our government is committed to protecting seniors from all forms of abuse. I fully support the proposed changes to strengthen Canada’s private sector privacy law and provide added protection for seniors against financial abuse.”
-The Honourable Alice Wong, Minister of State (Seniors)

The Digital Privacy Act also requires businesses to notify their clients if there has been a data breach where personal information has been lost or stolen. This will allow Canadians to change passwords and take other actions quickly in the event of a potential theft of their personal information. Companies face stiff penalties of up to $100,00 for not complying with the new legislation or destroying records of data breaches.

Companies will also need to use clear and simple language, instead of the usual thick legal language, to clearly communicate the potential consequences of sharing personal information online when users sign up for online services or purchases. The Digital Privacy Act also extends the powers of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to better be able to protect Canadians online.

Before the Digital Privacy Act, it wouldn’t necessarily be in a company’s best interest to notify clients when their site or servers had a data breach. Businesses selling online want to maintain the perception that their sites and servers are secure and notifying the public of a data breach could cause consumers to avoid that site in the future. The Digital Privacy Act takes that decision out of the hands of business in order to protect the digital rights of Canadians and protect them from potential online fraud.

In the past banks and other financial institutions were bound by privacy laws from notifying next of kin or authorities when an elderly person’s account activity looked suspicious. Industry Canada will be working with financial institutions to develop best practices surrounding the Digital Privacy Act to further protect privacy while allowing reporting of suspicious activity.