Experts Urge Close Monitoring of Privacy Issues when Ontario Makes Cannabis Sales Online-Only This Fall

Article by Colin Perkel, The Globe and Mail

Experts urge close monitoring of privacy issues when Ontario makes marijuana sales online-only this fall COLIN PERKEL TORONTO THE CANADIAN PRESS

Buyers who have to provide personal information to purchase recreational pot online after legalization this fall should be able to rely on existing laws to protect their privacy but the issue needs to be watched closely to ensure regulations are obeyed and mistakes are avoided, experts say.

The matter is important given the stigma many people still attach to marijuana use, and the potential for Canadians to be barred from the United States if their otherwise legal indulgence becomes known to American border agents.

“We need to keep eyes on it, meaning we have to make sure this information is not abused or used for secondary purposes that were never intended,” Ann Cavoukian, Ontario’s former privacy commissioner and now an expert at Ryerson University, said in an interview. “Theoretically, it should not be used for any other purpose.”

A spokeswoman for federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien said the office had not looked specifically at online marijuana sales. At the same time, the commission said it recognized privacy concerns around buying or using marijuana given its longtime status as a controlled substance.

“The legal sale and use of both medicinal and recreational marijuana raises privacy issues, particularly since laws and regulations differ from country to country and even within countries,” Tobi Cohen said. “We have repeatedly raised concerns about the effectiveness of (Canada’s two privacy laws) in the digital age and have called for both laws to be strengthened.”

Last week, Ontario’s new Progressive Conservative government announced that consumers 19 years or older will have to go online to buy weed after legalization federally on Oct. 17 because private retail stores won’t be up and running until April. A government agency called the Ontario Cannabis Store will run the online sales, although private e-commerce provider Shopify will be involved.

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