Liberal MP calls for enhanced privacy protections of at-home workers, surveillance safeguards


Liberal MP Michael Coteau is launching consultations to bring about stricter regulations around employer monitoring of at-home workers.

Coteau said given how the pandemic has prompted more work-from-home scenarios, privacy rules ought to be revamped to protect employees.

“As Canadians retreated to the safety of their home, their work followed. In the first year of the pandemic, up to 60 per cent of Canadians worked from home. Along with these changes, we saw a drastic increase in the use of surveillance by employers,” he said during a press conference on Monday.

Coteau added that demand for surveillance software increased by almost 90 per cent in 2020, citing methods like webcam and keystroke capturing to the use of artificial intelligence to rate workplace output.

“There are currently weaknesses in our current system designed to protect Canadian workers,” he said, noting that the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) only extends to employee information or data for federally-regulated organizations.

While some provinces have their own PIPEDA-style laws, many jurisdictions remain unregulated.

The Ontario MP said he intends to bring forward a private member’s bill following consultations. According to the House of Commons’ website, there are more than 100 MPs with private members’ business slotted before Coteau. Few bills make it through the House, so he’ll likely require cross-party support to see this move.

“I believe in the age of big data, government has the duty to protect the digital privacy of employees and to deal with the current practice of surveillance,” he said.

“Right now in Canada, there is a patchwork of rules and gaps across the country and we need a framework that will protect the privacy of employees who decide to work from home.”

During the consultation process, Coteau said he hopes to unearth how prevalent employee surveillance occurs, determine what data employers are gathering, and how the data is being protected.


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