Privacy Commissioner Welcomes Government Action on Identity Theft



    OTTAWA, Oct. 2 /CNW Telbec/ - The federal government's plan to amend the
Criminal Code to better address identity theft is a welcome first step towards
stopping the explosion of a costly and emotionally devastating fraud, says
Jennifer Stoddart, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
    "Canadians have reason to fear being the victim of identity theft," says
Commissioner Stoddart. "The financial repercussions of losing their personal
information can be crippling, and can affect victims for years to follow. The
problem of identity theft highlights the value of personal information and the
need to protect it."
    "Today's announcement is encouraging. It promises to provide law
enforcement officers with the tools to pursue identity thieves or fraudsters
before Canadians suffer actual financial harm," says the Commissioner, who
will be closely reviewing details of the government's plan in the coming days.
    While this is a welcome step, the Commissioner still believes that the
federal government must develop a broad-based strategy for tackling this type
of fraud.
    A comprehensive strategy should also include, for example:

    
    - Measures to halt the dramatic proliferation of spam, which ID thieves
      often use to trick people into revealing personal information. Canada
      is the only G-8 country without anti-spam legislation.

    - A plan to address "pretexting" - where a fraudster tries to obtain
      personal information about an individual, such as financial or
      telephone records, by posing as that person or someone else authorized
      to have the information.

    - Reform of the badly out-of-date Privacy Act to ensure that personal
      information collected by federal departments and agencies is adequately
      protected.

    - More extensive public education campaigns aimed at helping Canadians
      better protect their personal information.
    

    Past efforts to combat identity theft and fraud using personal
information have been hampered by a lack of coordination among various
government departments and agencies, the provinces, law enforcement agencies
and private-sector organizations.
    As the Commissioner told the Standing Committee on Access to Information,
Privacy and Ethics in May 2007: "We need better information about identity
theft. One reason for the lack of information is the lack of a centre of
responsibility. Everyone is interested in preventing identity theft, but no
one has overall responsibility for doing anything about it," said the
Commissioner.
    The Privacy Commissioner's submission to the committee is available at
http://www.privcom.gc.ca/parl/2007/sub_070508_e.asp

    The Privacy Commissioner of Canada is mandated by Parliament to act as an
ombudsman, advocate and guardian of privacy and the protection of personal
information rights of Canadians.




For further information:

For further information: Colin McKay, Office of the Privacy Commissioner
of Canada, (613) 995-0103, cmckay@privcom.gc.ca


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