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Commissioner calls for creative approach to new privacy challenges

Emerging technologies are raising privacy challenges not specifically addressed by privacy legislation, making it critical for privacy professionals to take their thinking beyond merely the letter of the law, says the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 16, 2010 – Privacy professionals must be more creative and strategic than ever before in the face of new privacy challenges arising from rapidly developing technologies, says Privacy Commissioner of Canada Jennifer Stoddart.

“Increasingly, those responsible for privacy within organizations need to think outside the box,” says Commissioner Stoddart, who took part today in an event marking the 10th anniversary of the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP). 

“The latest online technological applications often involve new ways of collecting and using personal information that can be a challenge for privacy legislation to address,” says Commissioner Stoddart.  “My message to privacy professionals is that they need to go beyond the strict requirements of the law and ask the fundamental question: ‘What do we need to do to respect people’s privacy and minimize the intrusion on that privacy?’ ” 

Commissioner Stoddart joined a panel discussion exploring the future of the privacy professionals at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.  As part of its 10th anniversary activities, the IAPP also released a paper entitled A Call for Agility: The Next-Generation Privacy Professional, which includes the Commissioner’s observations.

In the report, Commissioner Stoddart notes that, in Canada, privacy regulation is based on an ombudsman model, where the emphasis is less on court action than on dialogue, guidance and the search for better business practices.

“Indeed, one of the most interesting trends in (our) country is the evolution of ‘soft law.’ Emerging in the space between the traditional legislative and judicial branches of government, soft law uses tools such as model codes, best practices, informal dispute resolution processes, and alternate modes of redress,” she says. “It’s widely argued that the adversarial court system is no longer as appropriate for the kinds of issues we face.”

Commissioner Stoddart, a long-time advocate for a consistent and collaborative global approach to protecting personal information, also welcomed the fact that major corporations have joined global initiatives seeking common ground on privacy issues.

“They understand that a set of well-understood regulations, common to major jurisdictions, would bring a measure of legal certainty.  That would promote both data privacy and robust global data flows.”

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada is mandated by Parliament to act as an ombudsman, advocate and guardian of privacy and the protection of personal information rights of Canadians.

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For more information, contact:

Valerie Lawton
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Tel: (613) 943-5982
E-mail: Valerie.Lawton@priv.gc.ca  

Nicole Baer
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Tel: (613) 995-1048
E-mail: Nicole.Baer@priv.gc.ca  

For more information about the IAPP event, please see www.privacyassociation.org.

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