Evidence of meeting #34 for Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was privacy.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Jennifer Stoddart  Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
  • Chantal Bernier  Assistant Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Okay.

You indicated that only one-third of the users of CPIC were meeting the required privacy guidelines. Is that as a result of, for example, small-town police stations and so forth not having the resources, or is it their not really understanding what their responsibilities are with respect to privacy, or some combination? What did you find with respect to the non-compliance with respect to privacy and CPIC?

It would seem to me CPIC should be pretty closely guarded.

11:20 a.m.

Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Jennifer Stoddart

Yes, you're absolutely right. But with the range of organizations across Canada that are attached to CPIC, I don't know if there's one simple response. I don't know if the assistant commissioner does. We have the head of audit and review, if you'd like to hear the answers that were given back.

We're talking about people who plug into CPIC who are not necessarily under federal jurisdiction—municipal or provincial police forces. So I don't think it was really our business to go and say.... We did CPIC and we noted with some concern that a third of those accessing CPIC didn't have designated users.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

So it's a third that are non-compliant, not a third that were compliant.

11:20 a.m.

Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Jennifer Stoddart

Yes, a third were non-compliant. That's my understanding.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

It's still a significant number. You're talking about a significant number of people who are using that system who aren't meeting guidelines for the use of it.

11:20 a.m.

Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Jennifer Stoddart

Exactly. It wasn't the RCMP; it was those that are partners with the RCMP, which may be much smaller organizations.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Okay, thank you.

I'm pleased that 32 of the 34 recommendations that you made previously were fully or substantively instituted. That's good news.

I'm also pleased to hear that Google is cooperating so well. I'm not meaning to give props to Jacob Glick and Google here in Canada, but I can't remember the last time I used another search engine online. I'm glad to hear that they're returning the loyalty that Canadians have extended to them with a cooperative spirit. That's good to hear.

I wanted to ask another question. Mr. Angus talked a little bit about Bill C-30. I know that's not what you're here specifically to address. Of course, notwithstanding the fact that I don't believe Canadians should be providing any more information than what they absolutely are required to by law, I think...as you said, governments have a duty to protect that information; they require it for the operation of government. At the same time, I'm always concerned that there is an element within society that uses rules like privacy laws to hide illegal activity, to hide themselves amongst otherwise law-abiding citizens, and to use those protections that we fight for, that I think all parties fight for and have always fought for. They utilize those protections, those privacy laws, to do criminal acts.

It's never going to be easy to determine...and I think it's true to say there are sacrifices we all must make in order to make sure our law enforcement officers and so forth have the ability to track down those who would otherwise seek to exploit our privacy laws to break the law. You talked about having a conversation with Canadians—I'm paraphrasing—to justify why these changes need to be made. Have you been approached by groups or police and law enforcement that have talked to you about some of that rationale, about some of the things they're seeing? My local police chief came and talked to me, and it was very disturbing what he indicated to me about the challenge they're having tracking down, specifically, people who are trafficking in child pornography.

11:25 a.m.

Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Jennifer Stoddart

Thank you. These are really important questions and important concerns.

If I may, Mr. Chair, I'll ask Assistant Commissioner Chantal Bernier, who has a background in national security and can answer that better than I can....

11:25 a.m.

Assistant Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Chantal Bernier

Indeed we agree with you that privacy cannot stand in the way of public safety and cannot be used to shield illegal activities. That is our starting point. We have consulted widely, I would say, with chiefs of police, the RCMP, and CSIS, as well as with civil society, to truly make the distinctions that are appropriate in consideration of this legislation.

The commissioner earlier referred to the document called “A Matter of Trust”. You would find if very helpful, I believe, in that it puts forward an analytical framework, precisely to make the distinctions that you suggest must be made.

That analytical framework calls, first of all, for empirical evidence of the need for certain powers that do indeed call for breach of privacy in certain circumstances. Secondly, it calls for the justification to keep the personal information that is collected, and then of course an oversight mechanism to ensure that all the rights that must be upheld are upheld.

11:25 a.m.

NDP

The Chair Pierre-Luc Dusseault

Ms. Bernier, I have to ask you to wrap things up in 15 seconds.

11:25 a.m.

Assistant Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Chantal Bernier

So the bill must be looked at through that lens, to precisely ensure that it only targets those who must be targeted and therefore avoid using privacy as a shield for illegal activities.

11:25 a.m.

NDP

The Chair Pierre-Luc Dusseault

Thank you very much.

I want to let the committee members know that the report titled “A Matter of Trust: Integrating Privacy and Public Safety in the 21st Century”, which Ms. Bernier mentioned, is available upon request. The clerk will provide you with an Internet link, so you can access that report.

I yield the floor to Mr. Andrews for seven minutes.

April 26th, 2012 / 11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Welcome, ladies, to our committee this morning.

During your opening remarks you talked about the over-collection of data. How common is that? There's the one example you gave, but how common would it be across government that some government departments probably do an over-collection of data? Is this something we should be concerned about in some other departments as well?

11:30 a.m.

Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Jennifer Stoddart

That's very difficult to say, across the government. I would say it's kind of a natural tendency. I think one of the honourable members referred to the fact that staff always want to get more information to make sure they're doing the right thing, and that they administer programs and so on. I think a lot of it is extremely well intentioned, but it may not be necessary. As the assistant commissioner said, you have to justify why you collect personal information from people, conceptually and in terms of the Privacy Act.

So what we do is.... The Treasury Board asks organizations that are setting up programs where personal information will be collected to do privacy impact assessments. They're often known as PIAs. It varies by year; we have anywhere from between 60 to 100 PIAs that are sent to us. We don't review all of them. We don't have the resources for that. We review the most significant ones, and then we try to whittle down the over-collection of personal information, where that happens.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

Are these PIAs common practice? From your experience and from what you've seen, is that being done in all appropriate circumstances?