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Time to Break Out of "Technological Trance", says Commissioner

OTTAWA, July 13, 1993--We are in a "technological trance", says Privacy Commissioner Bruce Phillips, and have little time left to reconcile privacy protection with the technological revolution.

In the 10th anniversary report (released today) Phillips says Canadians' privacy is under seige from exploding computer and biomedical technology, the "commodification" of personal information and our uncritical acceptance of all technology. He urges policymakers to develop broad principles to deal with the long term implications of technological change, rather than short-term technical fixes.

"We no longer have the luxury of time--the next ten years will tell the tale", Phillips says.

He recommends all levels of government recognize

  • that every Canadian is entitled to the data protection rights set out in the OECD guidelines and the federal Privacy Act;
  • that privacy rights should apply to both the public and private sectors; and
  • that all Canadians are entitled to be fully informed about the potential impact of technology on their lives--what personal information is involved and what will be done with it--and to participate in planning the application of technology.

The Commissioner also proposes a privacy "checklist" to guide the federal government when designing and applying new technological systems.

The report examines legislation to protect users of new telecommunications technology, to amend the Income Tax Act and the proposal for privacy regulations in various financial acts. It also updates federal drug testing initiatives, electronic service projects and private sector privacy codes.

Other highlights of the office's year include:

  • 1579 new complaints received (a 13 per cent increase), 1440 investigations completed;
  • 5183 inquiries answered (a 10 per cent increase);
  • nine compliance audits, two special investigations and 12 follow-up audits of previous investigation findings;
  • 48 notifications of release in the public interest or for an individual's benefit.

Information: Sally Jackson (613) 995-8566, 1(800) 267-0441

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