The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) has recently invited stakeholders and the public to provide feedback
regarding strategic priorities that it should focus on in order to respond to issues that Ontarians care most about in respect of access to information and privacy. Feedback can be submitted here by January 15, 2021. As can be seen from the consultation paper, the IPC has proposed six potential strategic priorities and four cross-cutting approaches that have been identified that may guide the IPC’s work over the next five years.
Why have strategic priorities? Given the increased digitalization that has occurred since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a corresponding increase in challenges and concerns that need to be addressed. The IPC is seeking feedback on how to focus its efforts and resources so it can create more specific research projects, guidelines and educational materials, and also concentrate on proactively advocating for certain issues. It is also important to keep in mind what is currently taking place in the legal landscape, namely the recently proposed Bill C-11
by the federal government, and also the possibility of Ontario introducing its own private sector privacy law (see the IPC’s recent statement on this matter here).
The IPC will need to focus on addressing issues that are most pressing for Ontarians, that advance Ontario’s access and privacy laws, and that can realistically make improvements with respect to each strategic priority considering its mandate, strengths, and resources.
Once the responses are in, the plan is to publish a summary of what was learned in a final report, which will be available in early 2021. Subsequently, upon selecting the priorities, the IPC will develop an operational plan for each priority that includes specific goals, objectives, and success measures, as well as a roadmap of activities to achieve them over the next five years.
There are several potential strategic priorities that are being considered:
- Government digital service delivery: the IPC will be a trusted source of independent advice to government institutions seeking to digitize their services, while holding them accountable for respecting the privacy and access rights of individuals who use such services. This is important because, as government institutions shift to digital service delivery, service improvements and efficiencies cannot come at the cost of Ontarians’ access and privacy rights
- Transparency and open government: the IPC will reduce barriers to access government-held information by promoting efficient access-to-information processes, proactive disclosures, and an overall culture of open government, while also protecting the personal information of individuals. This is significant because individuals need to be given access to the non-identifiable information that they need so they can have the ability to hold their governments to account, express views, and make decisions and choices that form the cornerstone of our democracy
- Responsible use of data for good: the IPC will convene and work with relevant partners to develop governance frameworks that support the responsible use of data for innovative and socially beneficial purposes. This is critical since, in order to unleash the full potential of data needed to help solve some of society’s most pressing problems, appropriate governance frameworks need to be in place to ensure the responsible use of that data
- Access, privacy, and youth: the IPC will champion the access and privacy rights of Ontario’s children and youth, helping them to exercise their independence, protect themselves, and make informed choices about their personal information. This is important because the privacy rights of youth must be appropriately protected, youth need to be able to understand how to control the use of their personal information in different contexts, and we need to empower our youth to learn, grow and develop safely
- Next-generation law enforcement: the IPC will develop and enforce the necessary boundaries to ensure that law enforcement’s adoption of new technologies used to protect public safety also respects Ontarians’ access and privacy rights. This is significant since, in order to establish and maintain trust between Ontarians and law enforcement agencies, it is crucial that police services and other organizations be transparent and held accountable for the personal information they collect, use and disclose as part of the technologies they deploy and the powers they wield in the name of public safety
- Trust in virtual health: the IPC will help support a virtual health care system that respects Ontarians’ privacy and access rights and is founded on human dignity and trust. This is critical because we need to have trust in how our personal health data are processed when increasing adoption of digital health technologies and ultimately improving health care outcomes for individuals and across populations
In addition to the above-mentioned potential strategic priorities, there will also be an examination of some cross-cutting approaches that could be applied across all strategic priorities to further enhance the impact of the IPC’s work:
- Accessibility and equity: the IPC will apply the dual lens of accessibility and equity to its evaluation of programs and technologies related to its priorities, as well to its own services and processes
- Capacity building (internal and external): the IPC will continue to develop its internal capacity by enhancing staff training and gathering knowledge through engagement with diverse stakeholders; continue to educate organizations on how they can practically comply with their privacy and access obligations; support research into privacy-enhancing technologies and other advances in access and privacy, including by creating pathways for researchers to show the practical impacts of their work; and continue to empower individuals to exercise control over their own information and demand greater transparency with respect to information held and used by governments
- Visionary but pragmatic: the IPC will ensure that its work on strategic priorities is visionary, considering the full range of potential future paths; draw from the experiences of other jurisdictions and evolving international data privacy norms for new technologies; and identify intermediate steps along those paths at which practical advice and guidance can be created
- Collaboration and consultation: the IPC will commit to seek out collaborations with relevant stakeholders across sectors when advancing its strategic priorities; coordinate its efforts with other regulatory bodies, including data commissioners and human rights regulators; and consult with a range of stakeholders to ensure a holistic approach that reflects multiple perspectives and advances the IPC’s work, in the interest of all Ontarians
View the consultation paper for details regarding each proposed strategic priority, some of which include the work that the IPC has done so far in each area, ideas for building on this work, further resources, and the particular questions relating to each strategic priority. It also elaborates on the cross-cutting approaches that are discussed above and the associated questions. Feedback can be submitted here by January 15, 2021. Feedback can also be given by email to [email protected] or by mail to IPC Strategic Priorities, 2 Bloor Street East, Suite 1400 Toronto, ON, M4W 1A8.
It is important to note that the IPC will be working with an Ad Hoc Strategic Advisory Committee made up of access and privacy experts from a diverse range of fields to act as independent advisors and provide non-binding strategic advice concerning the above priorities.
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