Annual Report to Parliament 2013-14 - page 9

The right to privacy is one of our fundamental rights and freedoms as Canadians.
And amidst ever-evolving technological capacity to both collect and analyse personal
information, this needs to be protected with continuing commitment and care.
I was appointed Privacy Commissioner after
the end of the 2013-2014 period covered by
this annual report on the
Privacy Act
. And
while I was not at the organization’s helm, the
year gone by shows that the profile of privacy
has gained prominence and for good reason.
Never before in human history has personal
information been as available as it now is
and consequently never before has protecting
personal information been as important.
Against this backdrop, the period under review
was a time of mounting privacy concerns.
The year in particular was marked by the
continuation of a long-running debate in
Canada about lawful access to subscriber
information along with a series of ongoing
revelations about state surveillance activities
that had impact globally as well as within our
borders.
As another indicator, statistics show there was
a continued rise in the number of complaints.
Also continuing are complaints from a large
number of individuals that arise from a single
event. For example, the Office is currently
investigating 339 complaints over a mass
mailing by Health Canada which allegedly
exposed the names and mailing addresses of
some 40,000 people involved in the marijuana
medical access program.
In a year where perhaps unprecedented
attention was paid to public sector data
breaches, the 228 separate data breaches
voluntarily reported across the federal
government in 2013-2014 were more than
double those from the previous fiscal year.
This marked the third consecutive year where
a record high was reached for such reports.
Accidental disclosure was provided as the
reason indicated by reporting organizations
behind more than two-thirds of the breaches.
Important lessons learned
Much of the attention about public sector
data breaches was generated by the loss of a
hard drive containing information about more
than 500,000 student loan recipients from
Employment and Social Development Canada
(ESDC, then known as Human Resources
and Skills Development Canada – HRSDC).
A March 2014 Special Report to Parliament
on the incident underscored the lesson that
once organizations develop formal privacy and
security policies, so too they must be put into
practice and monitored regularly.
Commissioner’s Message
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