Issue Archive

The false promise of Canadian data localization laws

The public sector restrictions on cross-border data flows in BC and Nova Scotia are controversial to say the least, providing a source of endless debate about the threats to privacy posed by foreign (and Canadian) national security laws, as well as the economic costs of avoiding the cloud. In the absence of meaningful empirical data though, this debate remains largely theoretical.

The recent growth of cloud-based services offered on Canadian soil would seem to mark the close of this complicated and confusing chapter of Canadian privacy law. However, to suggest that the use of Canadian servers ends the debate is misleading, as this trend only exacerbates the fact these so-called “blocking statutes” are unworkable and unnecessary. This issue of PrivacyScan looks at the problems with the BC and Nova Scotia laws, and argues that it is time to focus less on the merits of cross-border data flow restrictions, and more on developing pragmatic and flexible approaches to why and how these restrictions are implemented.


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