Why You Should Start with an Inventory of Your Business’ Personal Information

As everyone knows by now, privacy-related legislation is now such in Canada that pretty much every organization should take heed and start doing its homework on that front. Complying with privacy law is no longer something only multinationals should do, SMB/SMEs should now do it too.

Though it may seem tempting to jump right into what privacy legislation prohibits and mandates, this is not the first step you should take. A preliminary (but necessary) step is to stop and think about what the organization really does with personal information and how -in detail. Though this exercise may involve expending resources, it should be done, at least if you’re serious about the process.

Indeed, the first order of business when undertaking this process, should be to take inventory of what personal information is collected by the organization, the whole organization, including as to employees, clients, customers (potential and actual), etc. When doing this, it is worthwhile to try and understand how this data comes in, through what processes, tools, partners, etc.

Along with knowing how we go about collecting information, we should strive to inventory the whole of personal information which the organization ends-up having in store, and the system(s) used to collect and store it.

Once we know what information the organization has access to, it will then be important to chart and document what we do with each piece of information, including how we use it, where we send it, who we communicate it to, etc. Though time-consuming, this will later allow us to assess what we need to do to remain compliant with privacy legislation.

All this preliminary work should normally result in providing us with a clear picture of the extent to which personal information is relevant to the organization and what we need to manage moving forward. Equipped with an understanding of what the organization does, we can then start determining whether we are complying with privacy rules as to each instance of collection, of use and of communication and, if not, what remedial steps must be taken.

Though it may prove tempting for many small organizations to start looking at the requirements of privacy legislation right away, without making an adequate inventory, this is definitely not the way to go. If you want to things properly and end-up knowing reasonably well that you do comply with privacy legislation, a modicum of preparatory work is required, including adequately taking stock of what your organization actually does with personal information, throughout.

Though it may feel like spinning your wheels at first, it will pay off in the long run, as it will then allow a proper analysis of your privacy practices and adequate recommendations as to go about thing, moving forward.

Even More Changes Coming for the Competition Act and a Story About Rental Rates Shenanigans Illustrating Why It May Be Needed

Not content with the 2022 changes to the Competition Act, Canada was announcing this week that it will be looking into making even more changes, based on a consultation it has now undertaken. Use of technology is changing how society is going about things and the economy is of course following suit. In a context of constant changes, it’s not very surprising we also need to keep updating our statute that deals with preserving competition between businesses.

Canada will be looking to make changes such as those discussed in a recent document published by the government and which provided us with a fair indication as to what may be in store for the Competition Act, moving forward.

This is happening in Canada but other countries like the U.S. are experiencing the same kind of thing.

In a story that seems a good example of what we’re talking about, the Verge was reporting a story earlier this week about the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) looking into practices by some American landlords (lessors) potentially fixing prices for rental space (to a degree), by using the RealPage software to collaborate.

The story at issue relates to the fact that, nowadays, large landlords often subscribe to a platform called YieldStar (connected to RealPage) that easily allows them to share part of the data about their rental rates, in various markets. Over time, the system has enough data to suggest possible rentals rates to landlords looking to rent premises, as compared to other deals in the same area for such premises. In practice, this may lead to higher rates than would otherwise have been the case, had landlords not shared info like this.

In essence, if every landlord ends-up sharing data with other landlords in the market (in this instance, through use of a specific software), we may end-up with a coordinated effort that results in an increase in rental rates across the country. If this amounts to collusion, then legally there may be an issue of competition law, by the sheer use of RealPage and YieldStar, including certain message boards that are part of that offering. That’s the question the DOJ is looking into anyway.

Interesting fact pattern that’s symptomatic of the interaction which technology can have with competition law. Sharing is fine, but cartel-like practices may be crossing a line.

Subscriptions and Increasingly Intangible Intangibles: Where Does it Stop?

Without wanting to say too much about my age, I was part of the first generation to play computer games as kids. Yeah [says the guys adopting his Grandpa Simpson voice]: Back then, you bought it and could keep playing it ad nauseam, which included table-top games like Monopoly and console games like Pacman on my Atari 2600.

Well, the least one can say is that those days are gone… far gone. In today’s world, the way software and media are increasingly packaged basically did away not only with physical copies but with perpetual licenses altogether, rather turning everything into a something “as a service”.

You want a movie? Blockbuster’s gone, so are most DVDs and Blu-Ray discs, as most everyone turned to the likes of Netflix to watch movies and tv shows. Streaming is now the standard way to go about it. Heck, a friend was recently telling me Disney recently decided to do away with one of their stapes and stop selling copies of their movies on DVDs and the like. From now on (or soon anyway), you want to watch a Disney flick, you catch it in theaters or you stream it on Disney+. That’s it.

I think this speaks volumes about what’s been going on with media over the past 20 years or so. With the advent of the Internet, we collectively realized that no one needs to own… anything, really.

in today’s world, that even extends to software, of course. With quite a few companies discontinuing their apps and desktop software, rather opting to provide an equivalent that you can use through a browser, for example, the very concept of buying something that you control, call your own and can decide to keep around (or not) is quickly disappearing, software-wise anyway.

Of course, once you no longer own it, the producer of software can modify it at will, or even discontinue certain whole functionalities, at which point there’s fairly little you can really do about it. You really liked that cross-cell funky calculation function in that online application? Well, too bad, the producer elected to discontinue it, starting… oh yeah… yesterday. Don’t like it? Too bad for you.

Recently, I even saw this pushed one step further, when I realized a computer I was under the impression I had purchased (ah ah, fool) simply essentially disappeared overnight from STEAM, the widely used gaming platform. Yup, the game editor decided to pull that particular title and, of yeah, the effect was to essentially prevent those who had “purchased” it (or rather thought they did) to access or use it any longer. You liked that game? Too bad, it’s gone.

Heck, I’ve even read about certain car manufacturers abroad “innovating” (see those quotes?), by charging car “buyers” (see em’ again?) a monthly fee for the benefit of certain functionalities in their new vehicles, such as heated seats for $18 a month, etc. Yeah, seems in today’s world, businesses all want in on that subscription model. It’s just too good to pass on, it seems. Anyway, I don’t pretend telling anyone anything about this they didn’t already know. Just slightly amusing (if not outright tragic) to realize this is happening and that there precious little you and I can do about it. It’s just, as they say, the way it goes.