What is Canada's Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2022
Privacy bill sets out rules on use of personal data, artificial intelligence
Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne takes part in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press in Ottawa. Champagne introduced Bill C-27 Thursday, which is unlikely to see much debate before the House of Commons rises for the summer. (The Canadian Press)
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As you know I’m a huge advocate of better regulation in Artificial Intelligence. I live in Canada and we’ve for decades been at the mercy of the U.S. and outdated legislation. However that could all change.
Today on June 16th, 2022 Canadian Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne and Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti introduced the Digital Charter Implementation Act of 2022.
The Bill would give Canadians more control over how their personal data is used by commercial entities, impose fines for non-compliant organizations and introduce new rules for the use of artificial intelligence.
The act features three pieces of legislation: the Consumer Privacy Protection Act, the Personal Information and Data Protection Tribunal Act and the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act.
This is pretty positive news considering Canadians value their privacy and also also because we have a number of academic institutions at the forefront of A.I. with a number of AI hubs of Silicon Valley. It’s only fitting therefore that we have rules that protect consumers living in Canada that are up to date and do their due diligence.
Though some advocates were hoping for a more formal enshrining of privacy as a fundamental right, the updated bill’s preamble spells out that the protection of privacy interests is “essential to individual autonomy and dignity and to the full enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms,” and states an intention to align Canadian regulations with international standards.
Unbelievably, it’s the first major update in this policy area since before the advent of Facebook, Twitter or even Pinterest, a platform that Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne mentioned more than once at an afternoon news conference.
The proposed law, Bill C-27, is a much-anticipated step toward Champagne’s mandate to advance the digital charter, a series of principles intended to strengthen consumer privacy protections and guide the development of the digital economy.
He was a bit overly optimistic in his tone to the press:
He told reporters it is “one of the most stringent frameworks you would find among G7 nations,” with Justice Minister David Lametti adding: “We’re racing to the top.” As reported by the Toronto Star.
It would create a Consumer Privacy Protection Act to increase Canadians’ control over their personal information and how it is handled by digital platforms. It’s still potentially important with the basic things you might expect for instance, under the new rules, individuals would need to be able to have their data safely transferred from one organization to another, or to have their data permanently deleted if they withdraw their consent for its use.
New laws to strengthen Canadians’ privacy protection and trust in the digital economy
I’m sorry guys, I’m not sure if this is going to make me trust the digital economy any more, the U.S. has been raiding our talent for quite some time to the point that Silicon Valley BigTech have their hubs here in places like Montreal and Toronto, as bases of operation. The new Director of Meta AI, actually resides in Montreal.
The Government of Canada’s Press Release was not very impressive: you can read it here. We are no EU when it comes to the regulation of A.I.
He told reporters it is "one of the most stringent frameworks you would find among G7 nations."
I’m not a lawyer, but I see nothing ground-breaking about it in terms of A.I. maybe a good stab at consumer privacy however.
Protection of “Sensitive Information”
The personal information of minors is newly defined in the bill as "sensitive information" and its deletion at their request or that of their parents would be subject to fewer exceptions.
Though the Liberal government's (basically the “Democrats” of Canada) earlier attempt at new private-sector privacy rules was criticized by some as too weak, the new version doesn't go much further in the powers it affords the federal privacy commissioner.
The commissioner would be able to investigate complaints, order companies to comply and recommend fines should they fail to do so.
A tribunal with the authority to make court orders would then review the recommendations and impose penalties. The severest penalty would see non-compliant companies pay five per cent of their global revenue or $25 million, whichever amount is greater.
This is all fair and well, but certainly nothing world leading or revolutionary.
Impact on Artificial Intelligence
Legal frameworks around digital are behind all over the world, so there is at least some semblance of progress in Canada’s attempt here.
What the bill does do for the first time is create rules on the responsible development of artificial intelligence systems and criminal penalties for those who misuse emergent technologies.
A proposed Artificial Intelligence and Data Act would require companies to document their rationale for developing AI and report on their compliance with the safeguards it sets out.
A commissioner for artificial intelligence and data would have the authority to order independent audits of companies' activities as they develop the technology, and the minister would have the power to register compliance orders with courts.
Organizations developing AI could be criminally prosecuted for using unlawfully obtained data, and where there is intent to cause serious harm or economic loss.
Woefully Behind the Times
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said in a statement on Thursday that the changes are a welcome but long overdue development. “The law has not kept up with the pace of change, nor with Canada’s international competitors,” said Mark Agnew, the organization’s senior vice-president.
Canada while academically producing its fair share of talent, doesn’t have a well-developed A.I. startup scene, at least until Toronto is becoming one in recent years.
“The so-called lines between ‘digital’ and ‘traditional’ business no longer exist and Canada’s laws must be equipped for this reality, or else our businesses risk falling behind their international counterparts.”
Coverage is via the Canadian Press (Toronto Star).
Key groups with an interest in the bill are taking the time to study its implications.
They will have time to organize their thoughts before being called upon to testify in parliamentary committees.
With the House of Commons soon rising for a summer break, it is unlikely the bill will see intensive debate before the fall.
BigTech still has way too much power over consumers in the digital economy, laws like these don’t help us “trust” the digital economy any more. Just as Canada’s healthcare system is breaking down due to stress from the pandemic and housing affordability is at a crisis state. The uncertainty of the times has not been good for public opinion regarding the Canadian Government.
While these rules do a better job of considering private data and the individual’s rights important, they do not go far enough. Facebook already shared our data with its partners a long time ago, and many of us are already in the facial recognition systems as far as the CCP’s Skynet. To imagine that these regulations in 2022 have much of an impact on how we control our own data is factually incorrect and very misleading.
So let’s be honest, Canada is by no means a leader in the protection of our human rights for privacy or in A.I. regulation. However these are a good start in theory if not in practice.
I can only hope that:
The Consumer Privacy Protection Act
The Personal Information and Data Protection Tribunal Act
And the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act
continues to evolve as the “internet” continues to evolve into even more invasive technologies including the smart home, VR, AR glasses and the corporate Metaverse.
However, I am not hopeful, few countries really take privacy and A.I. regulation far enough outside of certain regions of the European Union.
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