The way we work may have changed a bit, but the things we need to work on — like expanding privacy knowledge — remain in full force. Next week, I’m excited about the fact that we will be delivering part one of the CIPP/C prep course, live but virtually. We are dedicating three hours a day spread out over four days, all within a two-week span. My challenge — and I am up to the task — will be to keep folks engaged so they can learn all this great stuff without simultaneously working on things in the other corner of the screen. (I’m not worried. No one does that during all these video calls, right?)
One of the topics we will discuss is how, under the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, there are fewer restrictions on the processing of information that is publicly available. The term “publicly available” is a tricky one under PIPEDA because the term itself is defined in the regulations. And, it is defined in such a narrow way that many things you think would be considered publicly available don’t fall within the definition. The most salient example is personal information found on the internet at large. Much of what can be found on the internet would not fall within the definition of publicly available.
This quirk in the law provides Canadians with an important protection: Just because your information is found on the internet does not mean it is fair game for organizations to collect, use and disclose.
It’s with this backdrop in mind that I’ve been thinking of all the news this past week about facial recognition apps that rely on images found online. IBM announced they are halting their facial recognition program. Amazon has also slowed its program down. Clearview AI, on the other hand, seems intent on moving forward as quickly as possible and, troublingly, Clearview has scraped the internet for photos of everyone and amassed them in their big data database. From the news stories, they seem to rely on the fact the photos they’ve collected were publicly available. But, as you might be able to tell from my comments above, that doesn’t sit well with me. The Privacy Commissioner of Canada is investigating them so we should have clarity on this issue sooner rather than later. I’ll be sure to let you know the results of that investigation as soon as they are made — you guessed it — publicly available.
Have a great weekend.
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