Commissioner's message

Commissioner Patricia Kosseim

“The future depends on what you do today.”

Mahatma Gandhi’s prophetic words remind us that our future is not predestined but is shaped instead by our present choices and actions. To me, this means being proactive, embracing change, and using our collective efforts and ingenuity to unlock new possibilities and build a better future for Ontarians.

As we navigate our rapidly evolving digital world, the IPC’s mission is resolute — to enhance Ontarians’ trust that their privacy and access rights will be respected. Our annual report offers an overview of our work over the past year to further this mission. It also describes our strategic plans and recommendations to address the access and privacy challenges that lie ahead in a future beyond imagination, where every aspect of our lives will be affected by technology in some way, shape or form.

Read the Commissioner's full message

As we navigate our rapidly evolving digital world, the IPC’s mission is resolute — to enhance Ontarians’ trust that their privacy and access rights will be respected."

- Patricia Kosseim, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario

 

Inforgraphics with vision and goals

Privacy and transparency in a modern government

Navigating the AI landscape: Joint IPC-OHRC statement on responsible use of AI

In 2023, the IPC and the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) jointly issued a statement urging the Ontario government to develop effective safeguards governing the use of AI technologies within the public sector.

“We urge the government to continue showing leadership by pressing forward with a robust, granular, and binding framework for the responsible use of artificial intelligence technologies by public sector organizations. Clear and effective guardrails are needed to ensure the benefits of AI don’t come at the cost of Ontarians’ privacy and other fundamental human rights. Ontarians may want their public sector institutions to deploy AI technologies for the public good, but only if it is safe, transparent, accountable, and ethically responsible. Ultimately, innovative uses of AI must be supported and sustained by public trust.”
 

“Artificial intelligence technologies, and generative AI in particular, have the potential to generate damaging content that can sustain unfair biases and discriminatory practices, putting privacy and other fundamental human rights at risk. Strong legal and ethical safeguards are needed to ensure that AI technologies are used in an accountable, transparent, and ethically responsible manner that fosters public trust.”
 

Privacy of Ontario workers

Throughout 2023, Commissioner Kosseim continued to call on the government to address the serious gaps in statutory privacy protection for millions of Ontario workers. With the shift towards increased remote work arrangements, many employers have accelerated the use of monitoring technologies and AI as they seek new ways of tracking and evaluating employees’ performance. As a result, employees have never been under such intensive surveillance, creating undue stress and putting at risk their privacy in ways that may harm their productivity, creativity, autonomy, and mental well-being.

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“Digital technologies offer employees new ways of working … Through technology, we are able to engage in ways that were previously unimaginable. The future is here and it’s critical that governments and organizations act now to protect the privacy of workers … particularly in Ontario, where statutory gaps leave them vulnerable to the risks of digital surveillance.”
 

“Government-held information is a valuable source of accurate and truthful facts about present and historical events. It’s an antidote to the increasing spread of toxic misinformation, and disinformation, that erodes trust in our democratic institutions. This joint resolution urges our respective governments to strengthen access to information legislation, promote stronger information management practices and summon the courage it takes to build a culture of openness and transparency through proactive disclosure.”
 

Celebrating democracy: Right to Know Week highlights

For Right to Know Week (RTKW) 2023, the IPC kicked things off with a commissioner’s blog and a podcast episode focused on breaking down barriers to access to information for women, A woman’s right to know: Closing the gender gap with access to information. Also, as part of RTKW celebrations, we launched a new suite of Interpretation Bulletins

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Shining a light on excellence: Transparency Showcase

“Government transparency is essential to democracy and the healthy functioning of our society, fostering civic engagement, trust, and helping to counter misinformation. Through our Transparency Showcase we’re putting a spotlight on some compelling examples of open government initiatives to remind everyone of the benefits of transparency and open data and inspire government institutions to be more proactive in releasing information to the public.”

 

Children and Youth in a Digital World


Reflecting on five years of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act 

In July 2023, as part of the legislated five-year review of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA), the IPC provided comments and recommendations on ways to strengthen the access and privacy protections under the CYFSA and its regulations. 

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FPT resolution on youth privacy

At our 2023 annual conference in Québec City, the IPC, together with our FPT counterparts, issued a joint resolution, Putting best interests of young people at the forefront of privacy and access to personal information.  

Young people are increasingly susceptible to the unauthorized use and commercial exploitation of their personal information in ways that can negatively influence their behaviour and cause them harm. Yet, there are also wonderful opportunities for children to actively participate, grow, and flourish in the digital space. Recognizing this, the FPT privacy commissioners and ombuds discussed how to better protect youth’s privacy while also empowering them to navigate through the online world with greater confidence and autonomy. 

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Educate to protect and empower: Privacy Pursuit! lesson plans

The IPC was proud to see the IPC’s Privacy Pursuit! lesson plans chosen as one of three finalists out of nearly 75 entries for 2023’s IAPP Privacy Innovation Awards for North America and Latin America. The IAPP Privacy Innovation Awards’ goal is to celebrate ideas and programs promoting privacy and ensure the global privacy community hears about them.

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“Educators play an important role in equipping Ontario’s children and youth with the knowledge and skills to navigate the digital world safely. By integrating privacy education into classrooms, we can empower students to protect their personal information, make informed choices, and become responsible digital citizens. Together, we can build a generation that values privacy and embraces the power of informed decision-making in the digital age.”

 

Digital Privacy Charter for Ontario Schools

Students rely upon and trust educators, as guardians, to make important decisions for them. This is why Ontario schools have such an essential role in protecting young people’s safety online, preparing them to become responsible digital citizens and empowering them to exercise their privacy rights. In 2023, the IPC released a draft Digital Privacy Charter for Ontario Schools for public consultation. 

“I encourage educators to adopt the Digital Privacy Charter for Ontario Schools and to demonstrate — to their students, parents and communities — a true commitment to safeguarding the privacy and future of young Ontarians in a digital world.” 

Empowering voices: The IPC’s Youth Advisory Council

“Today’s youth have grown up online, and no one knows or understands their needs, desires, fears, and challenges better than they do. Their fresh perspectives are an invaluable resource for supporting the IPC’s efforts to promote digital literacy and expand digital privacy and access rights for youth in a way that is relevant and meaningful to them.”

 

Trust in Digital Health

"The IPC’s fair, measured, and proportionate approach is intended to meaningfully address privacy violations while promoting and encouraging accountability and continuous improvement."
 

Three-year reviews of prescribed persons and entities:  The PHIPA manual

Every three years, the IPC thoroughly reviews the practices and procedures of prescribed entities and persons who handle vast amounts of personal health information. These reviews are a cornerstone of PHIPA, ensuring that those specific organizations entrusted with greater legal flexibility to process this sensitive information for the public good without individual consent, are held to the highest standards of privacy and confidentiality.

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Next-generation law enforcement

Practical guidance on facial recognition with police mugshot databases

person on their laptop

Following our 2022 joint FPT statement and privacy guidance on facial recognition for police, and in response to requests by interested parties, the IPC developed more specific Ontario-based guidance for police use of facial recognition technology in connection with mugshot databases. Facial recognition is an artificial intelligence technology that uses software to analyze sensitive biometric information to identify or verify a person’s identity. Despite the intended benefits, the technology presents legal, privacy, and ethical challenges, including risks of bias and inaccuracy and impacts on privacy and other fundamental rights, leading to ongoing regulatory debates about its use in Canada and worldwide.

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“Until a clear and comprehensive legal framework for police use of facial recognition technology exists in Canada, I urge Ontario police services and police service boards that are currently operating or considering setting up a facial recognition mugshot database program to review their programs against our guidance as soon as possible, to ensure their program meets legal requirements and includes rigorous privacy safeguards and controls.” 

 

IPC outreach by the numbers in 2023

Website visits

59,242

YouTube views

23,094

LinkedIn followers

12,663

INFO emails

8,500

Info Matters episode downloads

5,626

X followers

4,907

INFO calls

4,500

Media mentions

1,027

Unique email subscribers

853

YouTube subscribers

652

Instagram followers

322

Media statements

94

Presentations

57

Info Matters podcasts

10

Commissioner blogs

8
timeline english


 

Financial Summary 2023

Salaries and Wages$15,204,322
Employee Benefits$3,489,586
Transportation and Communications$100,414
Services$3,568,818
Supplies and Equipment$138,037
Total$22,501,177

2023 FINANCIALS

The IPC Team

The IPC Team