I had the opportunity this week to attend the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada's Symposium on Generative Artificial Intelligence. The beautiful room in the National Arts Centre was the perfect Ottawa backdrop to a fascinating discussion about AI.
Commissioner Philippe Dufresne opened the day with a good analogy to make the point that regulations and standards do not stifle innovation but rather work to augment it. He used the example of a new technology from about 100 years ago: air travel. In the 1920s and 1930s, air travel was taking off (pun fully intended), but we quickly recognized there were dangers inherent with this new innovation. As a result, we developed laws, rules and standards to make sure that air travel was as safe as it could be and from that, trust was established, and the industry grew to the point where we can now travel around the world whenever we want (provided we have the money or points).
Long-time privacy pro Barb Bucknell, spoke on a panel representing the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and her message was clear: no more delays in getting these laws, rules and standards in place. The AI industry has already taken off, and we can't wait any longer to get our ducks in a row.
The IAPP's Ashley Casovan, managing director of the IAPP Governance Center, spoke on another panel at this event. Her panel focused on how you go about developing standards in new industries like AI. Another message from this panel was the need for international cooperation to ensure interoperability. Clearly, AI technology is going to be used globally, so the laws, rules and standards that get developed need to work together instead of at cross-purposes. The commissioner's initial remarks about air travel regulation really resonated in this respect.
Casovan had quite a busy day in the National Capital: after the symposium, she appeared before the Parliamentary Committee studying Bill C-27. I caught most of the hearing, and we summarize some of it below in the digest. The main takeaway from her remarks was that we need a professional workforce to help put the laws, rules and standards into practice.
Much like the privacy world around 25 to 30 years ago, when we recognized that there was a need for organizations to appoint chief privacy officers, we are at a point with AI where we need the same type of assignment being made in organizations that use AI. We need AI officers. And, to Bucknell's point, let's not delay, or we'll be playing way too much catch-up on something that is a pretty big deal and can have a significant impact.
On that note, read up on the week's privacy news and hope you have a great weekend.
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