As Canadians realize that their shopping, eating, travelling and exercising habits are being tracked daily, our privacy “spidey-sense” tingles. In this age of big data, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) has a new strategic priority: giving Canadians more control over their personal information. On June 12, 2015, the OPC released a report summarizing its findings from extensive consultations with Canadians and mapping its priorities for the next five years. The report identifies four main priority areas:
- Economics of personal information
- Government surveillance
- Reputation and privacy
- Body as information
The common thread? Canadians’ discomfort with their lack of control over how their personal information is collected and used, including by government surveillance. To address these concerns, the OPC plans to:
- Develop privacy-enhancing solutions as well as industry codes of practices and compliance agreements.
- Suggest improvements to national security policies and legislation, such as Bill C-51 and the Anti-Terrorism Act.
- Investigate and report on the activities of government organizations that collect personal information to ensure Privacy Act compliance.
- Examine the “right to be forgotten” in the Canadian context.
- Shape organizational practices through recommendations and court enforcement, and provide education and outreach to improve Canadians’ digital literacy.
- Examine the dangers of a big data approach to health, genetic and biometric information and the potential for harmful secondary uses.
To achieve these objectives, the OPC plans to explore innovative and technological ways of protecting privacy. All good news for Canadians who increasingly face erosion of their privacy rights.