10 Things That Were A Thing When Canada’s Last Privacy Law Received Royal Assent

Canada’s current privacy laws are a joke and horribly outdated. How outdated? We thought we’d highlight what people had back then.

There is a conventional wisdom that generally holds true to this day. That is that technology is a fast moving thing. At the best of time, the law is struggling to keep up with what all is happening in the world of technology and the internet. Of course, the idea of the law struggling to keep up with technology implies that governments are even putting forth effort to try and keep up in the first place. That cannot be said for Canada’s privacy laws.

If anything, the Canadian government has been dragging its feet on even half measures, let alone treating the matter seriously. Even with a multitude of major privacy scandals, Canadian lawmakers generally respond by hitting the snooze button on the matter (and a complicit media generally doesn’t bring up these issues at all).

The question some people might have is just how comically out of date is Canada’s privacy laws anyway? We decided to do some digging for points of reference on just how outdated Canada’s current privacy laws are.

First, a quick primer. Canada’s current privacy law is known as the “Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act” (or PIPEDA). That law received royal assent on April 13, 2000. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner was actually established much earlier then that. That has been around since 1977 which really is a testament to how forward thinking the Canadian government once was when it comes to privacy related issues. Still, the current privacy law is now 24 years old which, in the world of the internet, is several life times ago.

So, how long ago was that really? Well, let’s run down 10 things that people had when that privacy law became the law of the land.

1. The Nintendo 64 and the Original Playstation

At this point, people were seeing the major clashing of the home console titans of the day: the Nintendo 64 and the Playstation 1. Sega was already struggling and all signs were pointing out that they were on the verge of bowing out of the console wars. These consoles were out on the market for a while and there was talk of what the next generation might have in store. Consumers were hearing that Microsoft might be a new entrant in the major console wars and people were anticipating what would later be known as the Playstation 2 and the Gamecube (we’ve since also had the Nintendo Wii, the Nintendo Wii U, the Nintendo Switch, and now we seem to be getting close to yet another Nintendo console). All of those consoles were ultimately released a year later.

Still, the idea of treating your console as a media centre was a rather foreign concept. Multiplayer games were largely confined to a single screen for most players and playing over the internet was not exactly the most common thing in the world. For that, you would have to look towards offerings on the PC.

2. Very Relaxed Airport and Airline Security

(Image credit: Rebecca Williams)

At the time, the twin towers were a well known tourist attraction in New York, Osama Bin Laden was not even a household name yet, and airport security? Relaxed and generally quite friendly. You might have had metal detectors, but visible airport security largely consisted of a baggage scanner and a couple of people working security. Things like nail clippers, water bottles, and tubes of toothpaste made it on board of air craft all the time and it wasn’t really considered a security issue. No one was taking off shoes or taking off belts while in line and people certainly didn’t have small containers to put your shoes, belts, and loose change in. A humiliating secondary screening consisted of an airport security official waving a wand over you.

Once you got on board the flight, the only thing separating you from the cockpit was a small curtain for pilots to have a quiet space to work the controls. No one really thought of this as a security issue at the time. Who would put a big heavy security door next to the cockpit? Isn’t that a tad excessive?

3. Launchcast

Music listening habits were, at the time, changing. Some people might be wondering how people listened to music online. Well, MySpace and YouTube weren’t yet a thing at the time, but one service that was? LaunchCast. People could create radio stations on the internet and play whatever it is they wanted to play. Obviously, problems with paying royalties led to the service no longer being a thing in its then current form and it was ultimately sold off to Yahoo! and became part of Yahoo! Music.

4. Napster

If you were struggling to place the name Launchcast, well, we’ll do one easier. Napster. While the idea of downloading unauthorized copies of copyrighted work wasn’t actually started with this, Napster ultimately popularized it. At the time, the program’s popularity was rising sharply. At the time, it had caught the attention of major record labels and the day PIPEDA received royal assent, the major record labels filed a lawsuit against the organization. It would kick off a very heated battle between the major record labels and their fans. Kazaa wouldn’t be around for almost another year, Bearshare wouldn’t debut until later that year, Limewire needed another month before appearing on the scene, Morpheus made it’s debut a year later, and the original EDonkey2000 was still months away.

5. The Compact Disc

While the technology was around for a while, the Compact Disc (CD) had become the dominant medium for people to enjoy things like music. This freaking sweet piece of technology boasted a stunning 800MB of space for blanks and was easily able to hold a whole album worth of music from music artists. Thanks to this, people were able to enjoy digital media in a nice portable fashion. People walked around with headphones connected to things like the Sony Discman or various CD players. It was awesome technology because you didn’t need a pencil to fix the tapes of the Cassette or deal with that constant hiss while listening to the music. It was just clean audio through and through. Some players were still working out the kinks because there was the odd moment here and there where the music skipped, but otherwise, this was a huge step up from the mix tape at the time.

6. “… Baby One More Time” and Other Music

Now, you might be wondering what people were listening to at the time. One song that might come to mind was “Oops I Did it Again” by Britney Spears, but that album wouldn’t be released for another month. What was available at the time was the album “… Baby One More Time”.

Other albums available at the time was Millennium by Backstreet Boys, Significant Other by Limp Bizkit, Christina Aguilera by Christina Aguilera, The Fragile by Nine Inch Nails, The Battle of Los Angeles by Rage Against the Machine, and Reload by Metallica.

7. Jean Chrétien and Bill Clinton

President William J. Clinton

In Canada, the Prime Minister was Jean Chrétien. In the United States, the President was Bill Clinton. Both were in office for quite a while and, in a few short years, they would be replaced by other leaders. The most shocking political scandals that were known at the time was the sexual misconduct allegations against Clinton and memories of the Watergate scandal. The idea of a President colluding with an enemy of the country, let alone Russia, was such an out there idea that most would, at the time, say that that would never happen and a video of a presidential candidate bragging about sexual misconduct would’ve easily sunk a campaign in a single day. We really did live in much simpler times back then, didn’t we?

8. The $225,000 Single Detached House… in Major Metropolitan Areas

According to one source the following prices in major metropolitan areas:

Toronto average house price was $243,255
Vancouver average house price was $218,240
Montreal average house price was $143,000

At those prices at the time, sure, it was pretty expensive, but if you worked several years, affording your own place was, at least, somewhat doable even if it was pretty tough. Still, float the idea of a million dollar house at the time, and most people would think three stories, massive acreage, massive swimming pools, gold plated features, huge gardens, massive personal driveway, an army of staff to maintain it, etc. What wasn’t both a $1 million dollar home in a major metropolitan area and not a massive mansion or penthouse suite at the time?

9. Gas Costing 75 cents Per Litre In Canada, 1.5 Dollars Per Gallon in the US

According to statistics Canada, the idea of seeing 75 per litre in gas in Canada was on the upper end of being expensive. Still, people were seeing quite the rise in gas prices. Most people had grown accustomed to seeing prices hover around 60 cents per litre here in Canada. Similarly, according to the EIA, prices hovered around 1.3 to 1.6 dollars per gallon. For people at the time, things ere starting to noticeably get expensive in both countries. The idea of prices over 1.5 per litre or 3 dollars per gallon for people at the time would be considered unimaginable and unlikely. If we could offer a window into the prices we see today to people back then directly, one can only imagine the heart attacks that would ensue.

10. 5.25% Interest Rates (Canada) and 6% Interest Rates (United States) – and Thinking Those Are Not Bad Rates

With the Y2K scare behind everyone at the time (which was the hyped up thing at the time), people came back to reality. What more down to earth thing to talk about than money, or, more specifically, what interest rates were like at the time. in Canada, interest rates generally hovered around 5.25% at the time. In the US, interest rated were at about 6%.

At the time, yes, interest rates were rising and nearing it’s peak, people at the time likely knew that it could be a heck of a lot higher. It was much higher in the 90’s and 80’s and the overall trend throughout the decades was that interest rates were coming back down. If anything, people were still locking in mortgage rates, not knowing if things are going to continue to go skyward again.

It’s quite the contrast to today when interest rates rose to nearly those levels and people think of those rates as insane, constantly asking when the rates were going to finally settle back down to something more reasonable. One can only imagine how much people today would freak out at interest rates found in the 80’s.

The practical upshot is that savers, at the time, got great returns just by putting their money into a bank account. Save up a little cash and you could very easily get much more than a single penny every month. GICs were an even better investment as well. Also, the idea of compound interest rates in things like savings account was actually a very viable savings strategy back then.

While the law may have had a tweak or two applied to it, Canada continues to have a generally the same privacy laws as we did clear back in the year 2000 – at least at the federal level. Even my own writing career doesn’t span that distance as I only began writing news in 2005. While PIPEDA is certainly a good law for the time, a lot has changed between then and now. In fact, I would argue the world of technology is an entirely different world now then back then. I am hard pressed to find anyone with valid arguments that says that Canadian privacy laws today are perfectly fine and don’t need adjusting or updating. It has been time to update these laws for many years now and we’ve reached the point of government negligence that this has yet to happen.

Drew Wilson on Mastodon, Twitter and Facebook.

1 thought on “10 Things That Were A Thing When Canada’s Last Privacy Law Received Royal Assent”

  1. On a personal note, I’ve been battling a pretty big head cold all week. It wasn’t until today that I felt well enough to do some writing. It feels really nice to get back in the saddle even though writing general articles takes a lot out of me (not normal unless I’m writing massive 5,000+ word heavy research articles). Still, glad to be back and, hopefully, I can get back to writing more often again.

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