New Survey Shows That Canadians Want Greater Sovereignty Over Their Personal Data

A new survey1 commissioned by cloud service provider OVHcloud and conducted by Leger show that Canadians are becoming increasingly attentive to the way their personal data is handled, and most of them are opposed to it being stored outside of Canada. With the explosion of digital services and the growing importance of cloud solutions, Canadians were asked if they felt in control of their personal data. 8 out of 10 Canadians responded that they are concerned about its handling, especially when the data is stored predominantly by a handful of Web giants.

The survey also found that Canadians feel that the lack of targeted, standardized Canadian legislation governing the protection of personal information makes the concept of digital sovereignty – the degree of authority that a user has over her/his data and its processing – difficult to understand for them.

Canadians want control of their data

On the question of storage, the verdict of Canadians is clear: 78% of them refuse to have their data hosted outside of Canada. In the age of cloud computing, the question of data residency (where it is located and whether it is subject to be transferred internationally) gives rise to debate. Many organizations overestimate their cloud provider’s commitment to data sovereignty. While it is logical to expect a provider to respect the regulatory framework of the country where it is located, it must first and foremost prove that it is immune from extraterritorial legislation.

More than two-thirds of Canadian respondents feel constrained to use the services of the U.S. Web giants who have been able to implement their technologies and their rules, at the risk of locking users into an ecosystem of proprietary solutions (known as vendor lock-in). In turn, alternative models have emerged in recent years that rely on multi-cloud and the principle of interoperability between several solutions based on technological standards.

Greater awareness and transparency from Canadian government needed

In recent months, regulatory frameworks in Canada defining the protection of personal information have been strengthened. However, when asked about the latest privacy legislation, only 47% of Canadians say they trust the government. The delay in adopting the new federal privacy bill C-11 – titled the Digital Charter Implementation Act – may have something to do with this mistrust. Conversely, the adoption of Bill 64 in Quebec last fall seems to have had a positive effect, with 64% of Quebecers believing that their government is heading in the right direction to secure citizens’ personal data.

Inspired by the European regulatory framework, Bill 64 proposes to significantly raise the level of requirements expected from organizations in terms of transparency and consent. One of the key measures of Bill 64 is aimed at the supervision of cross-border data transfers, making it mandatory to assess privacy risks in the event of data transfers outside Quebec. 

However, despite a convergence of views between Canada and Europe on the regulatory front, Canadians seem to lack a reference point: twice as many of them would rather align Canadian legislation closer to an American model than to the European model. Tellingly, 50% of Canadians simply do not know how to define the Canadian regulatory model.

1 Léger survey for OVHcloud, “Canadians and digital sovereignty”, December 2021

2 Bill 64, An Act to modernize legislative provisions as regards the protection of personal information, passed on September 21, 2021

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