On May 28, 2015 Daniel Therrien, Canada’s Federal Privacy Commissioner, previewed the OPC’s priorities for attendees of the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) Canada Privacy Symposium.

These priorities were formed after consulting with public and private stakeholders, academics, consumer groups and the Canadian public. Driven by the vision to increase the control Canadians have over their personal information, Commissioner Therrien laid out his four priorities:

  1. The economics of personal information;
  2. Government surveillance;
  3. Reputation and privacy; and
  4. The body as information.

The OPC will address these priorities through exploration of technological solutions, promoting good privacy governance, and enhancing public education. Other strategies to address these priorities will involve addressing challenges relating to privacy in a borderless world and the way in which these priority issues affect vulnerable groups.

The Economics of Personal Information

This priority focuses on the idea that personal information is a commodity. There is concern that the power relationship between consumers and industries favours the latter and that more regulation is required. The issue of obtaining consent in the online world, and whether that is realistically achievable in the continuously growing age of big data, is a continuing concern.

Government Surveillance

This priority addresses the need to find the right balance between government collection and surveillance of its citizens for national security purposes while respecting its citizen’s privacy rights. Although controversial Bill C-51, the Anti-terrorism Act, may be enacted and come into force, the OPC is expected to be active in ensuring that Bill C-51 will be implemented in accordance with the Privacy Act, and report to Parliament and Canadians of any concerns.

Reputation and Privacy

This priority includes concerns regarding the ramifications to not only the information individuals share online but the information that is collected and categorized about individuals by organizations as they utilize online resources. This priority may be restricted to educating Canadians but may also include taking a significant position on the right to be forgotten.

The Body as Information:

The body as information priority involves the OPC’s efforts to stay ahead of the latest technological advancements and the related privacy concerns, including wearable devices and implants.

Perhaps most striking are not the priorities themselves or the strategies to address them but Commissioner Therrien’s overall approach. In some areas, such as the economics of personal information, Commissioner Therrien has stated that the OPC will conduct broad stakeholder consultations prior to forming guidance. The OPC’s openness and direct engagement with stakeholders across Canada is a welcome theme of his first year as Commissioner.

The OPC is expected to release its strategic report in June that will outline greater detail on the four priorities and upcoming activities it intends to launch.