Report features the OPC's efforts to protect fundamental privacy rights in the online era
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada's (OPC) annual report on the Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) was recently tabled in Parliament.
The report, "Protecting and promoting privacy in a digital world," is Philippe Dufresne's second annual report as Privacy Commissioner. His office has conducted investigations in the past year, highlighting various privacy issues and the impact of data-driven technologies on privacy.
"Privacy touches every aspect of our lives. Our work over the last year highlights how many of our daily activities – such as socializing online, using mobile apps, getting packages delivered, or going to the checkout counter – can raise privacy issues," Dufresne said.
The annual report features the OPC's efforts to protect and promote fundamental privacy rights in the digital era, including investigations into TikTok and ChatGPT's parent company, OpenAI. The OPC also issued findings and recommendations following an investigation into Home Depot, where the personal information of customers who opted for an electronic receipt at checkout instead of a printed one was shared with a social media company without their express consent.
Furthermore, the OPC followed up on recommendations from last year's investigation into the Tim Hortons mobile app, which collected vast amounts of sensitive location data from users. The OPC emphasized that Home Depot and Tim Hortons implemented their recommendations, improving privacy protection for millions of Canadians.
The OPC has also examined a Canada Post program that involved building marketing lists from various sources, including the shopping habits of millions of people gleaned from envelopes and packages that it delivers to homes across Canada and making these lists available to advertisers for a fee. The OPC recommended that Canada Post proactively contact Canadians to explain the program and how individuals can opt out. While Canada Post increased its transparency measures, it did not agree with the OPC's recommendation for a proactive mail-out to secure authorization from Canadians.
The OPC has also conducted several investigations and advisory initiatives that examined the federal government's privacy practices concerning measures adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The results of this investigation were presented to Parliament through a special report.
In his annual report message, Commissioner Dufresne outlined three strategic priorities:
- staying ahead of the fast-moving pace of technological advancement, especially in the world of artificial intelligence (AI) and generative AI;
- protecting children's privacy;
- preparing for potential law reform should Bill C-27, the Digital Charter Implementation Act, be adopted by Parliament.
The OPC emphasized that integrating privacy safeguards into emerging technologies is paramount in establishing public trust in digital tools that improve and simplify everyday lives. The OPC has collaborated with other data protection authorities to safeguard privacy concerning the quickly evolving field of AI and generative AI.
Moreover, the OPC has advocated for new private-sector privacy laws and has provided advice and recommendations to Parliament on law reform and privacy matters of public interest and importance.
The annual report covered the period from April 1, 2022, to March 31, 2023. The full report may be accessed through the OPC website.