Annual Report 2012-2013 on the Privacy Act - page 11

1.0 Commissioner’s Message
and procedures evolve accordingly. We should never
forget the human values and individual decisions
that technology aims to support. Privacy protection
is rooted in a concern for the autonomy, dignity and
integrity of the very citizens governments exist to
serve; it’s not data security for its own sake.
Along with significant advancements in technology,
this past decade has seen a global quest to strengthen
national security and public safety. During my time
as Commissioner, our Office has sought to make
clear that neither security nor privacy is an absolute
and one should not be ignored or traded away in
pursuit of the other.
In 2011, the Canadian and U.S. governments agreed
on moving forward with a series of initiatives
designed to facilitate trade and increase security,
many of which involve greater information sharing
between the countries about people’s movements.
Given the privacy implications involved, our Office
has committed to keeping a keen eye on new
programs as they develop and we share some key
insights in this report.
Accountability is vital
While this report brings to light threats to personal
information protection coupled with the privacy
risks of certain initiatives by government institutions
in the name of public safety, there are numerous
other examples that demonstrate the government
has not exercised the standard of care over personal
information in its control which Canadians have
every right to expect.
Departments and agencies have unparalleled access
to people’s most personal information, and this
makes accountability all the more vital. Unless federal
institutions are seen to be vigorously enforcing
privacy protection, Canadians will doubt whether
their personal information is secure. Similarly, if
institutions continue to drag out the process of
providing citizens with access to their personal
information or the task of working with our Office in
response to complaints, fundamental questions begin
to arise regarding the adequacy of Canada’s privacy
regime.
The government’s continued lack of action on
introducing amendments to modernize the
Privacy
Act
is also troubling. While the Act has been, and
continues to be, effective at setting the ground
rules for how federal government departments and
agencies handle personal information, the world has
changed dramatically since it was introduced over
30 years ago. Along with advances in technology,
Canadians’ concerns and expectations have moved
forward, bringing healthy pressure to bear upon
government and citizens. In order to maintain
legitimacy, credibility and trust, the government’s
stewardship of personal information needs to respond
in kind, and I firmly believe that updating the
Privacy
Act
would not only modernize the law but also send
a strong signal to public servants and citizens that the
federal government takes its responsibility to protect
personal information seriously.
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