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The IPC’s Strategic Priorities: One Year In

Over a decade ago, at the 35th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (as it was then called), the community of international data protection regulators walked away with a key take-home message: “be selective to be effective.” If that old adage was applicable then, it has become even more so now in the midst of a global digital revolution where the broad array of data-related issues coming at us every day can feel dizzying and overwhelming at times.

As some of you may recall, it was about this time last year that our office selected the four strategic priority areas on which we will focus our work over the next few years, with a view to becoming more effective at advancing Ontarians’ access and privacy rights.

These are:

  • Privacy and Transparency in a Modern Government
  • Children and Youth in a Digital World
  • Trust in Digital Health
  • Next Generation Law Enforcement

In developing these priorities and related goals, we gathered input from our stakeholders, the institutions we oversee, and the public we serve. We also assembled an ad hoc advisory committee of highly respected experts from diverse disciplines who provided us with valuable advice.

Over the past year, we have advanced our work in each of these strategic priority areas through special podcast episodes, educational webinars, guidance for stakeholders, policy submissions to government, consultations with public institutions, and other proactive initiatives. We look forward to further describing these in our annual report, soon to be released in June.

Throughout this initial year, we identified new opportunities and challenges as we continued to advance our goals. To help chart our path for the future, we met with our ad hoc advisory committee to assess where we were and where we needed to go. Important themes arose from these discussions, including the need to strengthen the connections between the strategic priority areas, continuously evaluate our effectiveness, and engage a broader range of stakeholders to stay apprised of emerging trends and issues and leverage our resources.

With these themes in mind, I’m pleased to announce that we have expanded and re-configured our ad hoc advisory committee into a new, permanent IPC Strategic Advisory Council. With such a rich and diverse range of perspectives guiding us, I am more confident than ever that we will be able to advance our goals and achieve real, positive impact.

As you will see from its composition, there are some familiar faces around the council table — and some new ones. Council members come from various backgrounds, including the public and private sectors, academia, law, advocacy groups, health, education and law enforcement. We’ve also recruited a youth representative — and we will do more to ensure that young people have a voice in the decisions we make as we continue our work.

In addition to meeting in plenary, Strategic Advisory Council members will convene around one of four priority tables, each dedicated to advancing a specific strategic priority. This is part of an effort to engage in more granular and practical discussions about where we can have the greatest positive impact moving forward. We will also look to members to suggest other partners and collaborators to broaden our engagement and consultation processes and with whom we can build a more inclusive and collaborative approach to promoting transparency and privacy. Finally, council members will help us evaluate and monitor our success in achieving our goals by providing us with the concrete feedback we will need to recalibrate and adjust our work according to the evolving context in the months and years to come.

With our strategic advisory council established, we will take their advice and guidance as we plan out our Year 2 activities. Among these, we will continue our efforts to promote the trustworthy use of artificial intelligence by public institutions and will be looking to launch a Transparency Challenge to showcase innovative projects that have enhanced transparency and access to information in Ontario. We hope to create a Youth Advisory Council to ensure that young people’s perspectives are front and centre as we develop public education materials. We continue to modernize the three-year review processes of prescribed entities under Ontario’s health privacy law with a view to streamlining our approach based on real-world risk. In the area of law enforcement, we hope to build on the guidelines we recently issued with our federal, provincial, and territorial counterparts by developing Ontario-specific guidance on particular use cases of facial recognition technologies. Needless to say, we have much exciting work ahead.

I very much look forward to working with our new Strategic Advisory Council and their respective communities and networks as we take on these challenges and opportunities. As I have learned, it is only through this kind of collaborative approach with a broad range of stakeholders that we will ultimately succeed in converting the work we do into real, transformative outcomes — the kind of outcomes that actually change behaviours for the better, advance Ontarians’ information rights, and help build the public’s trust in the institutions and organizations that serve them.


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