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Global Privacy Assembly promotes human centric approach to privacy protection

October 28, 2021

Data protection and privacy commissioners from around the world met virtually last week at the 2021 Global Privacy Assembly (GPA) conference, which had as its theme “Privacy and Data Protection: A Human Centric Approach.”

The GPA is a global forum that connects more than 130 data protection and privacy authorities from around the world.

A focus of this year’s GPA conference was to work towards a global regulatory environment with high standards of data protection.

“With this conference, we aim to shift the thinking from the protection of personal data to the protection of all individuals as a fundamental right,” conference host Blanca Lilia Ibarra Cadena, President Commissioner of Mexico’s National Institute for Transparency, Access to Information and Personal Data Protection said.

This approach is consistent with a recent declaration made by G7 Digital and Technology Ministers on the post-pandemic recovery.

The G7 declaration urged the Covid-19 recovery be “rooted in a desire to build back a better, more productive and resilient global economy, with digital technology at its heart.” It called for a “sustainable, inclusive and human-centric” approach to prosperity “guided by our shared democratic values of open and competitive markets, strong safeguards including for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and international cooperation...”

The position advocated for law reform by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) is in direct line with the positions of the GPA and G7 Ministers.

Report on privacy as a human right

In its role as chair of a GPA working group, the OPC oversaw the adoption of a report, that highlighted the theme of the conference – Privacy and data protection as fundamental rights: A narrative – and examines the relationship of privacy to other fundamental rights.

The report was developed by organizations and data protection authorities from 23 countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe. It suggests that convergence of international standards around a rights-based global framework would be more likely to succeed by maximizing the potential of existing legal instruments such as Convention 108+.

GPA strategic plan

Conference participants also adopted a new two-year strategic plan for the GPA that seeks to create an environment in which privacy and data protection authorities can practically fulfil their mandates to ensure high standards of data protection globally and promote and facilitate effective regulatory cooperation.

GPA awards

The GPA also announced recipients of the 2021 Global Privacy and Data Protection Awards, which celebrate achievements of global privacy officers and highlight notable investigations, good practices and public outreach initiatives.

The OPC, along with the Commission d’accès à l’information du Québec, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia, and the Office of the Information Privacy Commissioner of Alberta, won in the Dispute Resolution and Enforcement category for their collaborative compliance actions regarding facial recognition technology, including the joint investigation into Clearview AI.

“We are honoured by the recognition for Canada’s impactful collaboration in the facial recognition space,” said Brent Homan, the OPC’s Deputy Commissioner, Compliance. “We are equally proud that through these efforts, risks to Canadians’ privacy rights by facial recognition technology have been mitigated, and dialogue about its responsible use by public and private sector entities has been advanced.”

Resolutions adopted by the GPA

During the conference, data protection and privacy commissioners also adopted several resolutions, including:

  • A resolution on rule of law, privacy and government access advocating for respect of key privacy principles when governments access personal information held by the private sector for national security and public safety purposes.
  • A resolution on children's digital rights which aims to strengthen the protection of children’s rights in the digital environment. The resolution recognizes children are particularly vulnerable as they may be less aware of risks online, but are a key target audience for many organizations keen to collect their personal information.
  • A resolution to establish a GPA working group that will focus on identifying approaches to how data can be shared for public good purposes.

Related links:

Highlights from the Global Privacy Assembly Closed Session 2021
Adopted Resolution on children's digital rights
Adopted Resolution on Data Sharing for the Public Good

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