OECD Ministerial Meeting

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Remarks for the Future of the Internet Economy Confidence Session

Seoul, Korea
June 18, 2008

Address by Jennifer Stoddart
Privacy Commissioner of Canada

(Check against delivery)


Good morning and thank you for inviting me. I am so pleased that the organizers of this panel recognized that the protection of privacy is one of the crucial elements for building confidence in the Internet economy.

It is no overstatement to say that the Internet has revolutionized our lives – and we have only begun to realize its potential.

However, the features that make the Internet so attractive – openness, anonymity and global reach – are also potential vulnerabilities.

Many people are uneasy about what happens to their personal information when they go online. They’re reading headlines about sophisticated phishing attacks, enormous data breaches and the proliferation of identity theft.

People have legitimate concerns about the security of their personal information.

They need to feel safe when they go online. They need to know their personal information will be protected; that their dignity will be respected.

Building Confidence through Global Collaboration

Achieving these goals – protecting privacy, enhancing security and building confidence – cannot be done on a country by country basis. The only way to succeed is by working collectively on privacy and security issues.

This is my key message to you today: Internet privacy challenges require global solutions. We need to work together.

We should be striving to achieve a basic level of level of protection around the world. However, that does not mean we need to have a single global standard or one approach to protecting privacy.

As you know, discussions between countries about how to best address an issue can sometimes be challenging. Countries take different approaches to privacy. We need to drop any “my law is better than your law” attitudes.

It’s the outcome that matters far more than the approach and determining how best to achieve good outcomes requires global dialogue.

Canada’s Unique Place in the Search for Global Solutions

Canada is well-positioned to contribute to this effort. Our open economy is heavily dependent on international trade, which is increasingly based on cross-border information flows.

We believe that it is critically important to work with our trading partners to ensure good privacy and security standards are in place to protect this information.

Our close ties to the United States and our membership in both the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation and the OECD place Canada in an excellent strategic position to help facilitate cooperation between countries.

The OECD has played a critically important role in developing global solutions to privacy and security issues. I’ve been honoured to be able to work with the OECD Working Party on Information Security and Privacy. The work of this group is key to trying to ensure that the global flows of information that are the lifeblood of the Internet economy are adequately protected.

I am pleased to see that we are finally making some progress on the 1998 OECD ministerial resolution to build bridges between the different approaches of member countries in order to ensure privacy protection on global networks. The OECD Recommendation on Cross-border Privacy Co-operation adopted last year was a positive step, but we still have a ways to go.

There remains a pressing need to reach out further.

It’s very appropriate that this conference is being held in the Asia-Pacific region. We need to work closely with this part of the world, which is driving much of the innovation in the Internet economy – and has its own perspective and approach to the concept of privacy and data protection.

And I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the important work that is taking place within APEC in terms of implementing the APEC Privacy Framework, and the recent increase in APEC-OECD co-operation in this area is welcome.

Another way in which we need to expand our approach is to put a greater focus on information security. It is increasingly clear that privacy and security are intertwined. The data protection community must be more open to working with non-traditional partners such as anti-spam organizations, law enforcementand other enforcement authorities.

Good privacy can be a facilitator of the growth of the Internet economy and economic development.

Canada has adopted a flexible collaborative approach to data protection. I believe this kind of approach will help us achieve the global solutions necessary to put people’s minds at ease.

Korean Times opinion piece

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