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Canada: Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) Report 2023-2024 Overview

The report highlights the privacy protection achievements of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC), emphasizing their role under the Privacy Act, which governs the handling of personal information by federal government institutions, and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), Canada's federal private-sector privacy law.

A significant aspect of the report is the launch of the Commissioner’s Strategic Plan in January 2024, titled “A Roadmap for Trust, Innovation, and Protecting the Fundamental Right to Privacy in the Digital Age” (2024-2027).

Three Areas of Focus:

1. Protecting and Promoting Privacy with Maximum Impact:

  • Objective: Utilize business intelligence to identify key trends, provide focused guidance and outreach, leverage strategic partnerships, and prepare for new privacy legislation.

  • Achievements:

  • Creation of a new Directorate of International, Provincial, and Territorial Relations.

  • Introduction of new positions, including Deputy Commissioner and Senior General Counsel, and a Chief Services and Digital Officer.

  • Issued 15 new recommendations and a report on the Pornhub investigation.

2. Addressing and Advocating for Privacy Amid Technological Change:

  • Focus: Emphasize artificial intelligence (AI) and generative AI.

  • Achievements:

  • International and Collaborative Efforts:

  • Hosted an international symposium on privacy and AI.

  • Issued a joint statement on AI with G7 authorities.

  • Adopted a resolution on responsible generative AI with Global Privacy Assembly members.

  • Launched joint principles for responsible generative AI with provincial and territorial counterparts.

  • Stakeholder Engagement and Investigations:

  • Conducted stakeholder consultations on draft guidance for biometric technologies.

  • Launched an investigation into OpenAI (ChatGPT) with counterparts in Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta.

  • Invited research proposals on the privacy impacts of immersive and embeddable technologies through the OPC Contributions Program.

  • Internal Initiatives and Research:

  • Formed a multi-disciplinary team within OPC to address AI's impact on public and private sectors.

  • Established an environment for testing, research, and analysis on generative AI within OPC’s Technology Analysis Directorate.

3. Children's Privacy Rights:

  • Achievements:

  • Investigations and Recommendations:

  • Conducted a joint investigation into TikTok's privacy practices concerning young users with counterparts in Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta.

  • Recommended to Parliament that Bill C-27’s preamble include respecting the best interests of the child in processing their personal data.

  • Resolutions and Guidelines:

  • Adopted a resolution with provincial and territorial colleagues to improve privacy protections for children.

  • Created a child-friendly version of the resolution and a companion guide for organizations.

  • Engagement and Research:

  • Held roundtable discussions on the best interests of the child in data processing.

  • Participated in the Young Canadians’ Parliament to hear from youth about their views on privacy.

  • Invited research proposals on ensuring children’s privacy in the digital era through the OPC Contributions Program.

  • Participated in the Global Privacy Assembly’s Age Assurance Working Group to promote harmonized age assurance approaches.

As we review the report, it's clear that "AI" is a dominant theme, with significant attention given to investigations into Chat-GPT, the G7 Joint Statement on Generative AI, and unlawful data scraping. However, the OPC also addressed other critical issues, such as biometrics, surveillance, Privacy Impact Assessments (PIAs), and the importance of sufficient safeguards, demonstrating a comprehensive approach to privacy protection.

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