Why I’m a big fan of the GDPR – A Canadian’s viewpoint

By Elodie Ellingsen, Data Privacy Officer

I am proud to come from Canada – a country where you cannot ask personal questions which could support any kind of discrimination. During a job interview, for instance, questions pertaining to ethnicity, religion, gender, age or disabilities may not be asked. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a bill of rights entrenched in the Constitution of Canada. Section 15(1) of the Charter contains an equality clause, which provides as follows:

  • Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

In fact, it is illegal to directly or indirectly address a candidate’s gender or race in a job interview. On the topic of religion, you may ask if an applicant is available to work Saturday or Sunday shifts, but only if the question is asked of every applicant for that position.

I now call the UK my home (I hold dual citizenship) but when I arrived in 2004, I was amazed by how often my personal details were requested – every time I did anything in the UK, from applying for a landline or household gas to starting a bank account, my personal details were requested, and due to my Canadian culture, it actually offended me. The first time I filled out a form that asked my religion, I was shocked! When I applied for a landline, they asked for my birth date – “you can’t ask me that!” I blustered. Oh yes they could; and if I wanted a phone, I’d have to tell them!

What I found more disturbing was that personal data was passed around in a very blasé manner, even from country to country. When I found out that my information had been ‘third-partied’ by an employer (without my knowledge or consent) I complained to the VP of HR, who told me in so many words it was none of my business and hung up on me!

So what does this have to do with the GDPR? Nothing specifically, but the regulation does make me feel that I’m getting some of those privacy rights back, and that my personal data will be MY data once more.