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Privacy in the Cloud


The Privacy Commissioner of Canada, and the Information and Privacy Commissioners of Alberta and British Columbia have jointly released new guidance for small and medium-sized businesses with respect to privacy legislation and cloud computing.

Cloud computing is essentially the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server. Businesses may turn to cloud computing for data processing, storage and backup, to facilitate productivity, for accounting services, for communications, or for customer service and support.

Usage of cloud computing services, particularly by those within the real estate industry, has grown—and continues to grow. Despite its popularity, though, some people are concerned about the privacy implications that come about if personal information is being handled by a cloud provider.

As part of their cloud computing guidance, the Privacy Commissioners recommend:

  • Paying close attention to cloud service contracts. For example, might the fine print allow for third-party disclosures of the information being stored?
  • Considering whether your customers/clients are aware their information might be outsourced to the cloud and whether you have their consent?
  • Thinking about where in the world the data is being stored and what law may apply? No matter what, the business outsourcing the data is responsible for ensuring it’s protected to a level expected under Canadian privacy law.

Remember that when engaging with a cloud service for your real estate or mortgage business, record keeping requirements pursuant to the Real Estate Act and Rules still apply, as does Alberta privacy legislation. Make sure you’re not in breach of any such legislation.

For more information about privacy and record-keeping requirements related to your real estate or mortgage brokerage business, talk to your broker. The full cloud computing guidance document can be found on the website of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta.

Are you using a cloud service in your business?