To build a more resilient economy, Commissioner calls on government to make privacy law reform a priority
Last decade has shown benefits and real threats of technology. Respect for values and rights are the foundation for responsible innovation.
NOTE: News conference with the Commissioner TODAY at 11:30 a.m. ET. Details follow below.
GATINEAU, QC, December 9, 2021 – Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien is calling on the government to use its renewed mandate to bring Canada into the modern era by adopting rights-based privacy laws that will reflect Canadian values and support responsible innovation. This would be consistent with the government’s intention in the last Speech from the Throne to grow a more resilient economy that works for everyone.
The final annual report of the Commissioner’s mandate was tabled in Parliament today. The report takes stock of the growing challenges for privacy and the best way forward.
The Commissioner says many key files during his mandate – the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal and its impact on democracy, successive data breaches, growing use of facial recognition technology and risks of surveillance, ineffective consent policies and online reputation – identified key threats to privacy and other human rights, and consequently pointed to solutions.
“There is no doubt that the modern economy will increasingly depend on the value of data. The new Parliament must legislate to enable responsible innovation, but this should be done within a rights-based framework that recognizes the fundamental right to privacy. As a society, we must project our values into laws,” Commissioner Therrien says.
“I am encouraged by recent comments made by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry about reintroducing an amended bill in the New Year.”
The Commissioner urges the government to act as recommended in a recent declaration of G7 Digital and Technology Ministers, who called for a “sustainable, inclusive and human-centric” approach to a post-pandemic prosperity “guided by our shared democratic values of open and competitive markets, strong safeguards including for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and international cooperation…”
In 2020, the government introduced a bill to update Canada’s federal private sector privacy law. It died on the order paper with the election call this summer. The Commissioner’s submission on the bill included some 60 recommendations aimed at ensuring it will do as intended and effectively protect the privacy rights of Canadians.
The government has also indicated its plans to update the federal law setting out privacy obligations in the public sector. It published a paper on possible reforms and completed a public consultation that will inform future legislation.
In recent letters to the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers and party leaders, Commissioner Therrien reiterated his commitment to support legislative reform that promotes the protection of rights as well as responsible innovation and economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic.
He noted that Canada’s privacy regime had already fallen behind the laws of many of its global trading partners, and now it is falling behind domestically, as the provinces step in to fill gaps.
Ontario and Quebec have already put forward proposals towards responsible digital innovation within a legal framework that recognizes privacy as a fundamental human right. Quebec recently passed Bill 64 and Ontario is in the midst of serious consultations about its own law.
“While these initiatives are excellent, they do not absolve the federal government from the responsibility to ensure all Canadians are protected in that manner,” the Commissioner says.
“Federal legislation that would achieve this goal would reassure citizens that they would receive similar protections throughout the country. It would also benefit commercial organizations by setting interoperable norms, reducing compliance costs and increasing competitiveness.”
The Commissioner has also called for common principles to be reflected in federal privacy laws for the public and private sectors. As we’ve seen with several pandemic-related initiatives and the RCMP’s use of Clearview’s facial recognition technology, this is particularly important given the growing reliance on public-private partnerships.
The Commissioner’s 2020-21 annual report also addresses other work under both federal laws. This includes statistical data on complaints and breaches, information about our business and government advisory work, as well as summaries of investigations.
The report discusses the federal government’s engagement with the OPC on a range of files, including numerous initiatives related to COVID-19, border controls and programs that provide benefits during the pandemic.
Letters to the Prime Minister, Ministers and party leaders on privacy law reform
Submission of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada on Bill C-11, the Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2020
Backgrounder: Jurisdictional comparison: Privacy protections
News conference details
Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien will hold a news conference to discuss the annual report.
TODAY December 9 at 11:30 a.m. ET
Where: National Press Theatre, 144 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Room 200
Note to editors: Media attendance is for accredited members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery. For more information or to obtain temporary accreditation, please contact Mr. Philippe Perrier, Coordinator, Press Event Support, of the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery, at 613-992-6517 or by email at email@example.com.
To request call-in details: Journalists outside of Ottawa may join the news conference by phone. For that number, please email firstname.lastname@example.org in advance of the start of the news conference. (This line is available to accredited media only.)
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