Monday, May 15, 2017

Speaker's Corner: Privacy needs better protection; Law Times, May 15, 2017

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Law Times; 

Speaker's Corner: Privacy needs better protection

"There are also concerns that our current model of informed consent needs updating. The majority of Canadians admit to not reading privacy policies for mobile apps, and a recent privacy sweep — in which 25 privacy enforcement authorities participated — found that privacy communications of Internet-connected devices are generally poor and fail to inform users about exactly what personal information is being collected and how it will be used. It is difficult to reconcile these facts with the goal of meaningful consent.

This is especially important as more devices collect more information about our lives. From smart meters that track our energy consumption to fridges that track what we eat, Cisco Systems estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020. As a consumer, I want convenience and will trade some of my privacy. As a citizen and as a lawyer, I want laws that substantively protect my privacy. 

In general terms, we should mandate privacy by design. Governments and third parties ought to anonymize our personal information, and our government should follow Australia’s example and make it an offence to re-identify published government data sets. We should also look beyond the law to protect our data. 

Take Estonia. On the one hand, it has embraced big data through maintaining a national register with a single unique identifier for all citizens and residents. Customer service is improved and information is exchanged more easily. On the other hand, the same system ensures that citizens can correct or remove data easily and can see which officials have viewed their data. 

In summary, we need to embrace new laws and new technology. We need not sacrifice our privacy."

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