5.1.8 Data protection laws
While there are no specific data protection laws applicable targeting the cultural sector, federal legislation generally applicable in Canada includes the Privacy Act (1985) which extends the present laws of Canada that protect the privacy of individuals with respect to personal information about themselves held by a government institution and that provide individuals with a right of access to that information. According to Privacy International, Canada, Greece and Romania have the best privacy records of 47 countries surveyed although Canada's Privacy Commissioner recently noted that 2008 will be another challenging year of privacy in Canada in light of heightened national security concerns, the growing business appetite for personal information, technological advances and the absence of a national privacy law in the United States, Canada's neighbour and largest trading partner. The Access to Information Act, in force since 1983 but proclaimed into law in 1985, gives Canadians a broad legal right to information that is recorded in any form and controlled by federal government institutions. Individuals may apply for access to certain information, and, unless the requested information falls within specific and limited exceptions, the Act requires its release within specified time limits. The exemptions are set out in the Act; they generally relate to individual privacy, commercial confidentiality, national security or other confidences necessary for policy-making. Records containing Cabinet confidences are excluded from the operation of the Act for 20 years from the date of their making (see chapter 4.2.2). The Access to Information Act (1985) also contains provisions affecting the protection of data and information although the practical purpose of the Act, which is to provide a right of access to information in records under the control of a government institution in accordance with the principles that government information should be available to the public, that necessary exceptions to the right of access should be limited and specific and that decisions on the disclosure of government information should be reviewed independently of government, is to balance the privacy requirements for the protection of personal data and information.