Data protection is the responsibility of every employee, says Anne-Mari Phillips
Since the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered stores across the country and drove many shoppers online, Canada Post has been dealing with the flow of an unprecedented volume of packages on the domestic and international side, increasing pressure on the entire operation. During this ongoing e-commerce boom, the legal team has pivoted rapidly to continue supporting the business and provide urgent advice – particularly with regards to operations, privacy and human resources.
“Working from home has given us an opportunity to focus our messaging around data protection,” says Anne-Mari Phillips, director of privacy and access to information at Canada Post. With staff working in home offices and dealing with personal and confidential business information, Phillips and her team give the corporation guidance around privacy implications and also around secure systems and equipment.
“Data protection is the responsibility of every employee,” says Phillips, who has been with Canada Post for two years, and previously held the title of chief privacy officer and general counsel at Canadian Institute for Health Information. “I think it’s really important to know the business and understand the strategic business goals and initiatives because privacy needs to be a strategic business partner in furthering these goals. I think it’s really important that we add value to the business by identifying the privacy risk upfront, and then work with our business partners.” Working in a virtual environment has also enabled the legal team to use technology more efficiently, and to become almost entirely paperless as a result.
Phillips is responsible for providing leadership and strategic direction in ensuring compliance under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. She develops corporate wide policies and programs, providing expertise and advice to the corporation around privacy and risk, and developing strategies around privacy and data protection. She also handles complaints and investigations regarding privacy and access to information.
Phillips and her team recently worked on a new initiative to enhance the company’s privacy breach response process which involved examining all the protocols and practices that were currently in place, and then testing them out and revising them. The team is now considering introducing new privacy technology compliance tools for data mapping to identify where personal information is collected, and to further understand the data flow within the organization. In the year ahead, Phillips also plans to increase her team’s focus on data mapping.
Phillips will be watching out for the anticipated legislative reforms in the areas of public and private privacy in 2021 and monitoring these reforms closely to see how they may impact Canada Post as well as commercial customers.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing what these laws are going to enable, and really hoping that they support innovation in business, while of course being protective of personal information,” says Phillips.