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April 26, 2018

Privacy guardians: Smart city initiatives must include privacy protections

Privacy Commissioner of Canada Daniel Therrien and a number of his provincial and territorial counterparts have sent an open letter to the federal government calling for privacy and security of personal information to be considered in the selection, design and implementation of the winning proposals in a smart cities competition recently launched under the Government of Canada’s Impact Canada Initiative.

The letter outlines a number of mitigating controls that privacy guardians would expect to be built into proposals, for example data minimization, transparency, meaningful consent and using tools such as privacy impact assessments and threat risk assessments.

“We appreciate the potential value of innovative smart city initiatives, such as allowing communities to more effectively address the challenges of urbanization and allocate resources accordingly. We do however urge you to ensure that this initiative, in supporting and encouraging innovation, requires project proposals to directly build in privacy protections,” the letter states.

Commissioner Therrien has since spoken with the Deputy Minister at the Department of Infrastructure and Communities and welcomes the department’s openness to engaging with privacy commissioners.

Competition finalists will be subject to applicable access and privacy laws. For example, provincial laws apply to privacy issues involving municipal governments, while Canada’s federal private sector privacy law applies to the collection, disclosure or use of personal information in the course of commercial activities.

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