Privacy Commissioner co-authors book for businesses

Canadian businesses are ahead of Americans in taking seriously the privacy concerns of online customers, says a co-author of a new book on protecting personal information.

“”Companies are listening,”” Ontario privacy commissioner Ann

Cavoukian said Thursday evening at the official launch of her new book, The Privacy Payoff, written with Toronto Star technology reporter Tyler Hamilton.

“”But they say they don’t know where to start to develop privacy policies. That’s why we wrote this book, to be a resource, a useful tool for business.””

Among the contents is a 25-point action plan to help companies create and implement an online privacy policy.

The authors deal with allegations that the cost of complying with national and international privacy regulations will lead to financial ruin. The costs haven’t driven companies in Europe into bankruptcy, they note, and it’s risky to take the chance of being sued for misusing personal information. The book also looks at the various Canadian, U.S. and European privacy codes companies doing business online have to face.

Cavoukian and Hamilton include enough horror stories of companies whose systems were hacked by employees to make CEOs think twice about ignoring the issue.

“”Following fair information practices does not preclude collecting customer data,”” they stress in the 288-page text. “”Protecting consumer privacy does not mean severing relationships with those very consumers.”” But following fair information practices will “”put help consumers at ease”” and “”open up a world of valuable, not to mention accurate information that could give you the advantages you need in this competitive environment.””

While many Canadian companies have established privacy policies, Hamilton said in an interview, they still have to be fleshed out. It will take another year or two for the regulations in various legislation to be clarified, he said.

In the meantime, companies should at least keep in mind that unless provincial legislation is passed before January 2004, legislation passed by Ottawa will become the rule under which they will have to operate, he added.


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