Privacy commissioner shares recommendations for regulating artificial intelligence

On Thursday, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) released recommendations for regulating artificial intelligence in Canada, calling for legislation that would amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).

“Artificial intelligence has immense promise, but it must be implemented in ways that respect privacy.”

The recommendations from commissioner Daniel Therrien are the result of a public consultation that was launched earlier this year.

“Artificial intelligence has immense promise, but it must be implemented in ways that respect privacy, equality and other human rights,” said Therrien. “A rights-based approach will support innovation and the responsible development of artificial intelligence.”

The OPC report highlighted that while AI presents immense opportunity and promise, the use of it around individuals’ personal information can have “consequences for privacy.”

“AI systems can use such insights [analyzing and predicting aspects of behaviour and interests] to make automated decisions about people, including whether they get a job offer, qualify for a loan, pay a higher insurance premium, or are suspected of unlawful behaviour,” the report noted. “Such decisions have a real impact on lives, and raise concerns about how they are reached, as well as issues of fairness, accuracy, bias, and discrimination.”

The legislation that OPC is calling for suggests amendments to PIPEDA that are meant to uphold individuals’ right to privacy. One of the recommendations includes requiring organizations to design AI systems from their conception “in a way that protects privacy and human rights.”

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The OPC’s proposal also includes allowing for personal information to be used, specifically for responsible AI innovation purposes and for societal benefits. It called for this use to be within a defined “rights-based framework” that makes privacy “a human right and a necessary element for the exercise of other fundamental rights.”

The report also called for some form of understanding of the decisions made by AI and the right to contest those decisions “to ensure they are made fairly and accurately.” This was encompassed by the recommendation that companies be able to demonstrate privacy compliance upon request by the regulator, an idea accompanied by OPC seeking to be able to issues binding orders and proportional financial penalties to incentivize compliance with the law.

The recommendations follow from the public consultation on AI, which received 86 submissions and included two in-person events. The OPC said it consulted and received feedback from industry, academia, civil society, and the legal community, among others.

Meagan Simpson

Meagan Simpson

Meagan is the Senior Editor for BetaKit. A tech writer that is super proud to showcase the Canadian tech scene. Background in almost every type of journalism from sports to politics. Podcast and Harry Potter nerd, photographer and crazy cat lady.

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