Biography of Jennifer Stoddart - Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Since taking on the role of Privacy Commissioner of Canada in December of 2003, Jennifer Stoddart and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada have become leaders both nationally and internationally in the privacy sphere. In December 2010, Commissioner Stoddart was reappointed for a three-year term.
Commissioner Stoddart has overseen a number of important investigations and audits of personal information handling practices in the public and private sectors. She was the first data protection authority in the world to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the privacy policies and practices of the popular social networking site, Facebook. She also investigated with the Alberta Commissioner a massive data breach at U.S. retail giant TJX, which owns Winners and HomeSense stores in Canada. More recently, she found that Google Inc. contravened Canadian privacy law when it collected personal information from unsecured wireless networks for Google StreetView. In 2011, she concluded that an audit by her Office had found that Staples Business Depot stores had failed to fully wipe customer data from returned devices such as laptops and USB hard drives destined for resale – even though the company had previously committed to addressing the long-standing problem.
Commissioner Stoddart also led a number of important investigations on the public sector front, and has conducted audits of, for example, the government’s personal information disposal practices, its use of wireless technology, the Passenger Protect Program, Passport Canada, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), and the RCMP’s Exempt Databanks.
Throughout her mandate, she has advocated the need to ensure that both PIPEDA and the Privacy Act continue to provide the strongest possible protections for Canadians in an era of constantly evolving risks to privacy.
The Commissioner recognized early in her mandate that, in order to remain relevant as Canada’s privacy guardian, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada needed to focus attention on the online world. Rapid change, combined with the global nature of the issues and the fact that organizations and individuals are still struggling to develop the appropriate rules of engagement make the task of protecting privacy in this environment a significant challenge. Under Commissioner Stoddart’s leadership, the Office is conducting a growing number of investigations involving online organizations.
Commissioner Stoddart has led efforts to help public and private sector organizations better understand their obligations under federal privacy law and, particularly, under the Personal Information and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) in the first years after the legislation came into force. In 2010, she established an office in the Toronto region, in order to conduct more on-the-ground outreach and investigation work, and to help mitigate privacy problems before they occur.
She has also worked to raise awareness among Canadians of their privacy rights through enhanced communications, outreach and research activities. Commissioner Stoddart is working to promote online privacy for young people through the Office’s website for young people, www.youthprivacy.ca, a blog, contests for high school students, teaching modules and, as the Globe and Mail newspaper noted, she “must be the only regulator that has posted a children’s video about privacy rights on YouTube.”
Given Canada’s international trade patterns, Commissioner Stoddart has become involved in global privacy issues through her work with international organizations such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), which are examining ways to protect and enhance privacy rights on a global scale. In 2010, Commissioner Stoddart led an unprecedented collaboration involving 10 data protection authorities who issued a joint letter reminding online companies, such as Google, of their responsibility to respect privacy laws in countries where they launch their products or services. In 2007, she hosted the 29th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners.
The work of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner is guided by four emerging issues that Commissioner. Stoddart and her team expect will have powerful impacts on privacy in the years ahead. They are: information technology; genetic information; national security; and the integrity of personal identity.
In 2013, Commissioner Stoddart was recognized with an honourary doctorate from the University of Ottawa for her contribution to the advancement of women in the legal profession. In 2012, the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) awarded Commissioner Stoddart its International Privacy Champion Award for her work to safeguard privacy and promote collaboration among privacy officials around the world. In 2011, Canadian Lawyer magazine named Commissioner Stoddart to its list of the “Top 25 Most Influential” in the justice system and legal profession in Canada. Commissioner Stoddart’s work has also been recognized with a number of awards. Also in 2011, the Women’s Executive Network named her to its Canada’s Most Powerful Women list. She was selected as the 2010 recipient of the International Association of Privacy Professionals’ Privacy Vanguard Award for her role in establishing Canada as a leading regulator on privacy issues. In June 2011, the Quebec Bar awarded Commissioner Stoddart with the distinction of Avocat émérite as well as the Mérite Christine-Tourigny, which is awarded each year to recognize an individual’s contribution to helping to advance women in the legal profession. She also received the Ontario Bar Association’s 2010 Karen Spector Memorial Award for Excellence in Privacy Law, which honours outstanding achievements in the area of privacy law. In 2009, she was awarded the Université du Québec à Montréal’s Prix Reconnaissance for her work protecting the privacy rights of Canadians.
Commissioner Stoddart guided the Office’s institutional renewal after joining the organization at a challenging period in its history. She led a process to strengthen the management and financial framework of the Office. She has strived to continually improved service delivery to Canadians through focus and innovation. Commissioner Stoddart has also served on the steering committee of the Group of Heads of Federal Agencies, a network comprising the chief executive officers of more than 100 federal agencies, boards, commissions, tribunals and Crown corporations.
Commissioner Stoddart was previously President of the Commission d'accès à l'information du Québec, an organization responsible for both access to information and the protection of personal information. While in this position, she published a report, The Choice of Transparency, which led to important changes to Québec’s access to information and data protection legislation mandating that government departments and agencies make more information available to citizens.
She has held several senior positions in public administration for the Governments of Québec and Canada since being called to the Québec Bar in 1981.
Commissioner Stoddart holds a Bachelor of Civil Law degree from McGill University, as well as a Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Québec at Montréal and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto’s Trinity College.