Privacy Act Poses A Challenge For Business

Canadian businesses face unique customer relationship management challenges caused by Canada’s new privacy act, experts say.

The goal of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (formerly Bill C-6) is to protect customers, and it is important for CRM vendors to take into account fair information principles, said Karen Lopez, principal consultant for Toronto-based InfoAdvisors Inc.

“The biggest issues companies deal with (is that) it’s something they did not have to do before. The primary motivator to embrace the fair information practices should be the reputation with the public,” Lopez said.

The Act applies to personal information about customers or employees that is collected, used or disclosed for commercial use. As of January 2001, the law gives individuals the right to view and correct information an organization may have gathered for that purpose.

The bill is based on fair information practices for businesses, Lopez noted, and follows the principles of the Canadian Standards Association on protection of information. She added that IT professionals need to understand the privacy implications when designing their systems.

“Business need an easily available and understood privacy policy,” Lopez said. “They need to ensure that customers have access to their data so they can review it and demand updates…they need to disclose to whom they share information.”

By January 2004, the Act will cover the use or disclosure of personal information in the course of any commercial activity within a province, including provincially regulated organizations.

Problem is, most companies currently operate in a multi-channel world and have not yet constructed a common strategy for effective third-party and customer communications, said Bill Wassell, managing director of global systems integrators at Avaya in Markham, Ont.

“In effect, we have all these piecemeal strategies and tactics for dealing with people via the Web, via the call centre, via direct marketing, and via face to face – they might not look at treating the customer in a holistic approach,” Wassell noted.

Companies need to understand all the mediums of communication and set up a strategy within the enterprise from both a technology and business-function perspective, Wassell said. Marketing and customer service should function hand-in-hand when dealing with customers.

Forward-thinking organizations should set up a chief relationship officer who is responsible for communication interaction between partners and customers, Wassell said.

Smart organizations, he added, are already ahead of Bill C-6 and already implementing multi-year, multi-phase CRM projects.

“Early adopters have a leg up because they’re thinking about multi-channel interaction, commitment management and business intelligence through customer segmentation, business value reporting and data mining,” Wassell said.

“You can do it to yourself or you can have someone do it for you.”

Avaya Inc. in Markham, Ont., is at

InfoAdvisors Inc. in Toronto is at