So? Are you still using Facebook (if you had ever started)? Obviously, that is the biggest news story this week, and I’m sure you’ve heard a ton about it already. We have summarized a few articles below so you can quickly catch up if you haven’t had the time to read much about it. In one article for the Financial Post, I was quoted for the proposition that the scandal should, once again, raise the issue in Canada that political parties do not have any privacy rules. There are many other issues raised by the fiasco. What does it mean to you? Do you think this will have a long-lasting effect? I mean, several U.S. politicians have been rather public about how it is time for the United States to pass more stringent privacy laws. Not sure what their President Trump thinks about that, though.
I also have to follow-up from last week’s Digest, in which I called out Statistics Canada. As a result of the news coverage, I got a call from a privacy officer at Stats Can Monday. Are you wondering how much they loved that blog? In the end, I offered for Stats Can to put their position on paper so we could publish it. After all, I was asking for more transparency. So, they’ve written a response, and I’m pasting it below.
My comments about Stats Can not only got the attention of the people who work there but also other privacy professionals who work for organizations that have been asked to hand over customer data to the government agency. In fact, I had one email exchange with someone from the telco/ISP industry explain to me that Stats Can has approached them to provide massive amounts of customer data, including call details and geo-specific data. I maintain my stance that more transparency is needed about the government’s collection of sensitive personal information. And this is a great example.
So, enjoy this week’s news (after you check your Facebook feed). And, as promised, here’s the note from Stats Can:
"Further to comments in a recent IAPP newsletter citing a Globe and Mail editorial, Statistics Canada would like to provide the following clarifications with regard to the editorial 'StatsCan Needs To Come Clean' (March 14). Statistics Canada is committed to protecting privacy, whether it be respondent information or administrative data sources. The following letter to the editor, from Marc Hamel, director general of the Census Population Program, published March 17, 2018, provides the necessary clarifications to the editorial:
'Statistics Canada took immediate measures and, in fact, did inform respondents in the case you cite involving questionnaires that were lost due to a car being stolen in Montreal during the 2016 census.
Nothing matters more to our employees than the privacy and security of confidential respondent information. We are in discussions with Treasury Board officials and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to see how we can apply the lessons learned from this incident to the 2021 census.
Within hours of the incident coming to our attention, we consulted local police. A police investigation was launched; their expert advice deemed the questionnaires to have been destroyed with the car. Within a few hours, searches of the nearby area and waste receptacles were conducted. Requests were made to municipal recycling services to search their facilities.
We contacted community leaders the same day and commenced with the deployment of a team to notify individuals in the northern community. Households were informed of the circumstances around the loss of their questionnaire, and we committed to provide updates as part of our re-enumeration about two weeks later.
The census is a large and complex operation involving more than 35,000 dedicated enumerators. We continue to learn from incidents. The planned expansion of our existing online data collection will reduce manual operations involving the handling and shipping of paper forms and further enhance protection of respondent information.'
It is in this spirit of transparency and improving the visibility of our privacy practices that Statistics Canada will be, along with Melissa Kittmer, director of Statistics Integration in the Office of Economic Policy at Ontario Ministry of Finance and Statistical Focal Point for the Ontario Government, presenting a panel discussion, moderated by Frank Work, former privacy commissioner for Alberta, at the IAPP symposium in May.
At this panel discussion, Statistics Canada will make the case for administrative data as critical input to policy and program decisions, underlining the central role a statistical organization plays in the effective management of integrated data, while noting the privacy and security challenges in collecting, using and disclosing this kind of information. The panel discussion will also highlight how a privacy framework, that collection of approved practices, procedures and governance related to privacy that consolidates all elements of privacy protection into a single document, can demonstrate how to address these challenges, using the Statistics Canada privacy framework as an example."
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