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Commissioner Therrien discusses the evolution of privacy and case for law reform

October 5, 2021

Privacy Act Bulletins are intended to offer lessons learned, best practices and other important privacy news, trends and information related to privacy protection in the federal public sector. 

Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien participated in the 2021 Centre for Information and Privacy Law Learning Day hosted by the Department of Justice Canada.

In his remarks, the Commissioner shared his observations about the evolution of privacy issues since the start of his mandate in 2014 – from state surveillance, to corporate surveillance, the use of private sector suppliers to assist state functions, all of which are raising new privacy issues for Canadians. He also discussed how the changing landscape supports the case for law reform.

Describing privacy as nothing less than a prerequisite for freedom, he likened his job as privacy regulator to that of the Department of Justice, whose role is to “see that the administration of public affairs is in accordance with the law.”

“What a great concept, ‘to see to something,’” Commissioner Therrien said. “It means to take special care of something or someone, in order to protect them; to pay considerable attention to them; to actively look after them.”

As we navigate the digital revolution, Commissioner Therrien says taking care of people’s privacy must be more than simply checking off boxes on a privacy impact assessment. New laws and governance models are needed to leverage information and innovate responsibly while protecting citizens’ rights and values.

“The past few years have opened our eyes to the exciting benefits and the worrisome risks of new technologies,” the Commissioner said.

“The issues we face are complex, but the way forward is clear. As a society, we must project our values into our digital laws. Our citizens expect nothing less from their public institutions. This is the only way to restore the trust in the digital economy, and in digital government, that has been eroded by numerous scandals.”

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From state surveillance to corporate surveillance: The evolution of privacy and the case for law reform – Commissioner’s remarks at DoJ

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