It is generally accepted that the act of identity theft involves acquiring, collecting, using and transferring personal information for the purposes of committing a crime. However, beyond that, there is currently no standard definition of identity theft.
While identity theft is not a new activity, the Internet has provided those intent on engaging in identity theft with an efficient means of capturing privately held personal, financial and sensitive information. It is not necessarily that e-commerce is increasing identity theft, but more that criminals are using it to quickly use and distribute stolen identification information.
Direct responses to the problem of ID theft fall under a number of Federal Departments.
- the Department of Justice for specifying new offences;
- the Office of Consumer Affairs for Federal/Provincial/Territorial responses and educating consumers on how to avoid becoming a victim;
- the Department of Public Safety to issue advisory alerts, address organized crime aspects and address national security aspects of identity theft.
Industry Canada has a role to play in the context of its work to build a safer Internet, and to promote privacy-respecting and secure information handling practices by business. Policy responses are underway to address the problem of identity theft and many issues intersect with the mandate of the Electronic Commerce Branch. Specifically, in the context of:
- Our role to administer the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)
The PIPEDA is important to identity theft discussions as the legislation places obligations on businesses as to how they should manage personal information and restrictions on how the information can be used;
- Our policy objective of building a safer, more secure Internet
Identity theft is becoming an increasing threat to consumer confidence in the Internet as a means to conduct business. Most of the current threats to the Internet—spam, spyware and phishing—can be catalysts for ID theft to the extent that they serve as methods for collecting information;
- Our mandate to promote e-commerce adoption
The economic losses and financial/public harm caused by on-line identity theft negatively impact the rate of e-commerce adoption;
- Our international work
Where global frameworks for identity theft and the implications of transborder data flows are being discussed.
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