TORONTO, ON (May 28, 2020) – The privacy of Ontarians is at risk in the face of new and emerging technologies unless the government works to modernize its privacy laws.
In the final annual report of his five-year term, released today, Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, Brian Beamish, is calling on the government to update the province’s existing public sector privacy laws and enact a new, private-sector privacy law. The new law would strengthen oversight of private-public partnerships, particularly within the context of smart cities. The recommendation is among those highlighted in Commissioner Beamish’s annual report, Looking Back, Moving Forward.
“The recent focus on smart city initiatives has emphasized just how ill-equipped the province’s current regulatory framework is to tackle issues of data governance and the protection of privacy rights. Our province has fallen behind other Canadian jurisdictions in taking action on this issue, and we need to catch up. Ontario needs to strengthen its access and privacy laws to meet the demands of modern society and ensure the access and privacy rights of Ontarians align with other provinces.”
The commissioner’s annual report also includes recommendations to:
Expand open government – while Ontario’s public institutions currently have open data programs in place, the time has come to push the boundaries on what is currently available to the public. We need to move towards the proactive release of more information about government programs, services, and operations. There is no reason why these records should not be available to all Ontarians. Public institutions can also reduce the time, cost, and effort associated with access requests for both themselves and requesters.
Enact privacy rules for political parties – it is time to amend Ontario’s privacy laws to include oversight of political parties. Political parties are able to collect, share, and analyze voter data like never before, without us even knowing it. The privacy, ethical, and security risks associated with how political parties collect and use personal information are too high. Political parties cannot continue to operate outside the law.
The commissioner’s full recommendations, the year in review, and comprehensive statistics, including freedom of information requests, compliance rates, appeals, and privacy complaints, are available in the IPC 2019 Annual Report, Looking Back, Moving Forward.
Patricia Kosseim will take over from Commissioner Beamish on July 1, 2020, as Ontario’s next Information and Privacy Commissioner. Ms. Kosseim comes to the IPC from the law firm of Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, where she serves as counsel for the Privacy and Data Management Group and National Co-leader of the AccessPrivacy knowledge platform.