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Canada’s proposed online streaming bill raises privacy concerns, commissioner admits

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Canada’s federal privacy commissioner Philippe Dufresne told the Senate transport and communications committee that Bill C-11 (the online streaming bill) poses privacy issues. The committee is reviewing the bill, which would force streaming companies to push mainstream Canadian content.

Related: Canada’s bill C-11, harmful for independent online creators, just passed in the House

Bill C-11 would give the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) the authority to force streaming platforms to make Canadian content more discoverable and visible.

For that to be possible, the personal information of content creators might be needed to determine if they are Canadian.

“While the bill specifies that in doing so, the CRTC could not require the use of a specific computer algorithm or source code, discoverability conditions could nonetheless potentially require the adaptation of existing algorithms that rely on personal information or the analysis of personal information to determine whether user-generated content is Canadian,” Dufresne said.

According to the privacy commissioner, the privacy risks are dependent on how the CRTC will exercise its authority and how platforms “respond to new obligations by their collection and analysis of personal information.” He added that “it will be important that these privacy applications be fully assessed and mitigated prior to the CRTC imposing these conditions.”

Bill C-11 has raised privacy concerns since it was introduced, with critics arguing it would give the government the authority to regulate user-generated content.

Related: YouTubers consider leaving Canada if new online content bill passes

Content creators have also raised concerns about the bill’s discoverability provision, arguing it could backfire, harming Canadian content instead of helping it. The regulations could force Canadian content on people who are not interested in it. If the content is not viewed or interacted with, social media algorithms will stop recommending it, which has a negative impact on the creator.

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