Ontario launches consultations as it looks to create new policy framework on privacy protection

Queens Park

The Ontario government has launched consultations aimed to improve the province’s privacy protection laws. The consultations will be conducted through an online survey, written submissions and web conferences.

“As Ontario transitions to the post-COVID realities, the global data-driven economy continues to march ahead.”

The consultations will include individuals and businesses from the province’s tech, finance, and service sectors, as well as the information and privacy commissioner of Ontario. All parties have been asked to provide input on how the province can improve transparency concerning the collection, use, and protection of personal information online.

”Our government continually hears concerns regarding the province’s privacy protections,” said Lisa Thompson, Ontario’s minister of government and consumer services. “This has only been further highlighted during the COVID-19 outbreak, which has resulted in Ontarians relying more on digital platforms to carry out day-to-day tasks. With the increased reliance on these platforms, there is a strong need to build public and consumer confidence and trust in the digital economy.”

It appears the government is looking into new provisions that would give individuals more rights as it pertains to privacy. The government noted it is seeking input on how it can be more transparent with Ontarians about how their data is being used by businesses and organizations, and how it can enhance consent provisions and allow residents to “opt-in” to secondary uses of their data.

The province is also looking to introduce a new right for individuals to call for their information to be erased and for individuals to be able to secure their data in a portable digital format. The Ontario government is also looking to expand the scope and application of privacy law to include non-commercial organizations, including not-for-profits, charities, trade unions and political parties.

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The province is also seeking to develop a new legislative framework to establish data trusts for “privacy-protective data sharing.” The concept of a data trust was proposed by Alphabet Inc.’s Sidewalk Labs, whose now-pulled proposal to develop a smart city of Toronto’s Quayside neighbourhood drew concern over how personal data will be used and distributed amongst third parties.

To mitigate these concerns, Sidewalk Labs outlined in its master proposal an ‘urban data trust’ to store personally-identifiable data. The trust would manage data collected from the public and make “anonymized data” open-source and publicly accessible. Experts and critics of Sidewalk Labs’ proposal have expressed concern that the data could be re-identified by third parties.

Through the current consultations, the Ontario government is seeking input on how it can provide additional privacy protections for data that has been de-identified and obtained from personal information.

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Notably, the province is also seeking advice on how it can increase enforcement powers for the information and privacy commissioner to ensure businesses comply with the law, including giving the commissioner the ability to impose penalties.

“As Ontario transitions to the post-COVID realities, the global data-driven economy continues to march ahead presenting new challenges for policymakers,” said Benjamin Bergen, executive director of the Council of Canadian Innovators.

“Our members welcome the government’s effort to design a new and updated framework that allows it to govern the economic and non-economic effects of the data-driven world where the collection, use and monetizing of personal data is at the centre of new business models,” Bergen added.

Written submissions from businesses and the general public will be accepted by the province until October 1.

Image source Pixabay.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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