I was interviewed this week by The Hill Times, along with other privacy colleagues. You may have noticed they put out an entire spread on privacy and security issues. It’s worth digging into.
One of the articles concerned the role of the new data commissioner. If you recall, this role was introduced in the federal budget a few weeks ago, and there’s some uncertainty and debate about what it will look like and how it will interact with the OPC, the Competition Bureau and the rest of the government once it gets off the ground.
I suggested this new role could serve as a data ethicist to help guide the government with respect to when it is appropriate to collect and use data and how.
As we move more firmly into a world with AI, machine learning and algorithmic decision-making, all these things are predicated on massive amounts of data being used.
Not all data will be personal information, but a lot of it will be, and that’s where privacy implications start to arise. For sure, this new data ethicist will have to work closely with the privacy commissioner. Like others, I definitely see some overlap in terms of what each of these parties will be trying to achieve. I guess I’m slightly worried about bureaucratic duplication, but I think this risk can be minimized if the data commissioner’s legal mandate is crystal clear.
In the end, I think setting aside money for this role is a positive sign, suggesting the federal government is starting to understand that in our data-driven world, we need to catch up with not only the benefits, but also the ethics of it all, in a more comprehensive way.
So, while I’m encouraged with this particular move by our political leaders, I’m also a little discouraged to hear that shenanigans continue between political parties. I understand why there’s so much focus on Bill C-10, but I worry C-11 is getting short shrift as a result. The current and somewhat silly debate is about which parliamentary committee should examine Bill C-11. The ETHI Committee has been charged with reviewing these issues for the past 20 years, so I think it makes great sense for them to do it.
More importantly, why can’t these politicians prioritize this bill in a way that Canadians want them to and get C-11 scrutinized and passed? Maybe all the focus in The Hill Times on privacy this week will give them the little nudge they need.
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