Commissioner's message

Commissioner Patricia Kosseim

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.

“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. 

Preparing the next generation of digital citizens

With an eye toward the future, we are preparing the younger generation to navigate the digital landscape with knowledge and confidence. In 2023, we continued to prioritize the digital literacy and privacy rights of Ontario’s children and youth. To this end, we launched educational tools like the Privacy Pursuit! lesson plans, established our first-ever Youth Advisory Council, and released a draft Digital Privacy Charter for Ontario Schools.  

Recognizing that acting together is more effective than acting alone, I, alongside my federal, provincial, and territorial (FPT) counterparts, addressed the need to protect the privacy and access rights of young people across the country. During our 2023 annual FPT meeting, in Québec City, we issued a unanimous resolution calling for legislative changes to strengthen privacy safeguards, transparency requirements, and access to meaningful remedies for all young people in Canada. The resolution also called on both public and private sector organizations to protect the best interests of our youth and empower them to navigate digital platforms safely, with knowledge, agency, and autonomy. 

Calling for guardrails around the emerging use of artificial intelligence (AI)

Without question, 2023 marked the year when AI, once a thing of a distant future, entered mainstream consciousness. As AI technology continues to explode at a breathtaking pace, the IPC recognizes the critical need for strong governance surrounding its use to earn and support public trust. This past year, we partnered with the Ontario Human Rights Commission to issue a joint statement that calls for much-needed guardrails that would allow Ontario to reap the benefits of AI technologies in a manner that is ethically responsible, accountable, sustainable, and human rights affirming. Together, our offices called upon the Ontario government to develop and implement binding rules governing AI technology use in the public sector, emphasizing the need to protect privacy and human rights, and uphold human dignity as a fundamental value.

We also joined our FPT counterparts to release principles for responsible, trustworthy, and privacy-protective generative AI technologies. The principles are designed to provide practical guidance to organizations when developing, providing, or using generative AI models, tools, products, and services. The principles support transparency and accountability, emphasize the importance of accuracy, and are intended to mitigate privacy risks, particularly for vulnerable and historically disadvantaged groups who experience systemic discrimination or bias. 

Our provincial and national efforts were further amplified at the international level. In 2023, the IPC co-sponsored two AI-related resolutions at the 45th Global Privacy Assembly that were unanimously adopted by data protection and privacy authorities worldwide. These international resolutions — one on Generative Artificial Intelligence Systems, the other on Artificial Intelligence and Employment — sounded a clarion call for governments around the world to adopt core data protection principles to govern the development, operation, and deployment of existing and emergent AI systems.  

Future-proofing Ontario’s access and privacy laws

To prepare for the uncertainties of a digital future, legislators worldwide are modernizing access and privacy laws to protect their citizens from a whole new generation of risks associated with cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. Ontario must do the same. 

Over the past year, my office has actively developed our policy positions and law reform recommendations in the public, health, and children, family, and youth services contexts. The future is here, and it demands heightened accountability, transparency, and oversight of public institutions to reassure Ontarians that their access and privacy rights will be protected in this rapidly changing digital world. To thrive, Ontarians need to trust that their public institutions adhere to stringent data standards and requirements to minimize risks of harm, while maximizing opportunities for a promising and prosperous future. Now more than ever, there is a critical need for reliable and trustworthy sources of information and rights protection.

Adopting strategic foresight to prepare for our digital future

Throughout 2023, my office devoted significant efforts to deepen our understanding of emerging technologies and prepare for their potential future impacts on Ontarians through our IPC Privacy Futures Project. Using strategic foresight methodology, we examined investigative genetic genealogy (IGG) in the law enforcement context by engaging a diverse range of experts, including government policymakers, forensic scientists, genetic genealogists, civil society groups, academic experts, bioethicists, police services, and First Nations leaders. 

By engaging a broad community through a deliberate strategic foresight approach, we are better positioned to imagine plausible scenarios and anticipate their technological implications. This helps us develop more effective strategies to address potential challenges in complex areas and help shape regulatory regimes that will lead us toward a more desirable future. 

Building a digitally modern and sustainable organization 

Planning for a digital future also requires us, as an organization, to modernize our technological capacity and ensure the sustainability of resources in a context of ever-increasing demand for our services. Throughout 2023, we continued to advance our multi-year strategy to strengthen our information technology infrastructure, improve our digital collaboration tools and processes, and enhance online access to our services for all Ontarians. 

Our commitment to plan and prepare for a sustainable future also led to significant process improvements and enhancements to our tribunal services. These efforts underscore our dedication to providing fair, timely, and meaningful resolution of appeals and complaints in a transparent, effective, and efficient manner. Ontarians expect no less of us today, and every indication is that their demand for our services will exponentially increase in the future — particularly as cybersecurity and ransomware threats continue to escalate — and the need for truth and transparency becomes more important than ever in an age of generative AI. 

A year in review, with an eye on the future

While this annual report summarizes the past year’s activities, it focuses particularly on the deliberate steps we have taken to prepare for, and help shape, Ontario’s digital future. The initiatives outlined in this report are not just one-off accomplishments; they are the roadmap to our multi-year journey towards a secure digital future for all Ontarians, ensuring that privacy and access rights remain at the forefront.

I want to extend my deepest gratitude to the IPC's Strategic Advisory Council and Youth Advisory Council for their invaluable guidance and support throughout the year.

Last but not least, the dedication and commitment of my staff have been instrumental to our success, and I cannot thank them enough for their tireless efforts. 

Patricia Kosseim