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Privacy Commissioner expresses support for government's new privacy policy

Ottawa, April 24, 2002 - The Privacy Commissioner of Canada, George Radwanski, today congratulated the Government of Canada for its new Privacy Impact Assessment Policy, which was officially announced today by the Honourable Lucienne Robillard, President of the Treasury Board of Canada.

For more than a year, the Privacy Commissioner has been urging the government to put a Privacy Impact Assessment Policy in place, in order to ensure that privacy considerations are built in at the outset of projects and not as an afterthought. This new policy will help protect the privacy of Canadians in all transactions with the government.

"I am very pleased that the Government of Canada has demonstrated its commitment to the privacy rights of Canadians by agreeing to build in privacy solutions at the outset," said Mr. Radwanski. "The government has recognized that respect for citizens' privacy is critical to the success of all its programs and services, including the Government On-Line (GOL) initiative."

New and existing programs and services with potential privacy risks will undergo a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) - in effect, a feasibility study from a privacy perspective. Canada is the first country in the world to make PIAs mandatory for all federal departments and agencies.

Although Mr. Radwanski has been very supportive of GOL and has said that it promises to make government more efficient and accessible, he has expressed concerns about the need to address and resolve privacy issues surrounding the initiative. The concerns the Privacy Commissioner has raised include:

  • the risks involved with the merging of databases, as walls come down between agencies and programs, within government and across levels of government;
  • ensuring that the right privacy protections are built in when the private sector becomes involved in the delivery of services or benefits electronically; and
  • the extent to which authentication, identification and access devices, or "e-identities," are required for citizens to receive access to programs and services.

"This new policy ensures that PIAs will be directly tied to funding for projects and services," said Mr. Radwanski. "This is a signal that the government is taking these concerns seriously and, through PIAs, is looking at ways of addressing them."

In addition to working in consultation with Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat on the policy, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has developed a process whereby it will review all PIAs and offer comments to departments and agencies at an early stage.

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For more information, contact:

Anne-Marie Hayden
Media Relations
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Tel.: (613) 995-0103

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