/Opinion | Navigating uncharted digital waters (via Qpute.com)
Opinion | Navigating uncharted digital waters

Opinion | Navigating uncharted digital waters (via Qpute.com)


But he is not alone. His NDP counterpart Jagmeet Singh, who is himself a savvy user of Snapchat, could outflank him by calling for the immediate regulation of tech giants, like Facebook or Amazon.

Across the Western world, leftist political parties are following the lead of the Europeans in regulating tech companies, riding a public “techlash” driven by scandals such as Cambridge Analytica and an endless parade of hacks and data breaches.

In the United States, Democrats jostling for the 2020 presidential nomination are racing to outdo each other in their plans to trust-bust Facebook, the same way Teddy Roosevelt did Standard Oil or Clinton did Microsoft.


There is an audience for all of this because the public believes when it comes to privacy-protecting regulations, government is chronically running three steps behind the biggest, most advanced tech companies.

Consequently, governments now face the same challenge they did in regulating Bay Street. Those who really have the know-how and technical understanding to draft regulations find it much more enticing to work for industry than for government.

In his speech announcing the digital charter, Trudeau referred to the digital sphere as a “Wild West, ” a fitting descriptor both because it can be a dangerous place — Trudeau’s remarks were delivered at a conference devoted to combating hate speech online — but also because there exists enormous financial opportunity.

The challenge with the digital charter is thus to strike the right balance between preserving the nascent but lucrative technology ecosystem (a $100 billion industry in Canada) and addressing the public’s sudden concerns.

To do so, the charter includes a number of principles about consumer protections. In addition to obvious privacy and safety rights, users should have control over what data to share, and the ability to transfer it from one company to another without “undue burden.”

This last idea, known as “data portability, ” will be a boon to both users, and to startups, by making it easier to transfer personal information away from legacy companies.

The fact of the matter is most companies, operating in a sphere without strict borders, already comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and realize more stringent regulation is on the horizon.

The digital charter is simply the opening salvo in a long war to come over the governance of technology in Canada.

Jaime Watt is the executive chairman of Navigator Ltd. and a Conservative strategist. He is a freelance contributor for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @jaimewatt

Jaime Watt is the executive chairman of Navigator Ltd. and a Conservative strategist. He is a freelance contributor for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @jaimewatt


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