After months of secretive negotiations, the Tump administration and Trudeau government two weeks ago finally released the text of a trade deal that will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
TL;DR The USMCA will require that the Canadian government allow Canadians' digital information be stored in the United States, making the data subject to weak American privacy laws and free from Canadian oversight.
Titled the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the new deal largely came together in secure conference rooms in Washington, D.C., insulated from public scrutiny.
So when the draft text became available, Canadians had a mountain of legal language to parse.
But hidden in the dense document are actually some concerning provisions.
One sneaky data-sharing provision only recently came to light.
The USMCA will require that Canada dismantle what is called its "data-localization rule."
According to current legislation, any data that a Canadian individual or business submits online must be stored locally. These local storage banks ensure that sensitive or personal information is secured according to Canadian law.
The new trade deal, however, will allow companies to export Canadians' data.
That means that such information will not be subject to Canadian oversight. Instead, anything Canadians submit online will be at the disposal of American companies and regulated only by infamously weak American privacy laws.
The U.S. does not have the best reputation when it comes to ethical handling of personal data.
While the office of the U.S. trade representative assures on its website that eliminating "limits on where data can be stored and processed" will "[enhance] and [protect] the global digital ecosystem," in practice, it only further empowers the U.S. information economy and potentially jeopardizes Canadians' private data.
Canada has ceded sovereignty over its citizens' digital information.
Great reviews on the new USMCA. Thank you! Mexico and Canada will be wonderful partners in Trade (and more) long into the future.
Indeed, the Privacy Commissioner warns of this vulnerability: Canadians "do not want to see that protection vanish when personal information about them is transferred across borders, and they do not want to see governments or organizations in Canada transfer their information across borders if it will be put at risk of inappropriate disclosure, whether for security or for commercial purposes."
Review the public website of the Privacy Commissioner here to learn how you can protect your personal information.