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Privacy: federal ministries have violated their requirements, says the commissioner

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Canada's Privacy Commissioner, Philippe Dufresne, is the first to testify before a parliamentary committee examining the widespread federal use of personal data extraction tools.

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Voice synthesis, based on artificial intelligence, allows you to generate spoken text from written text.

Canada's Privacy Commissioner appeared Thursday before a parliamentary committee that is undertaking an in-depth study of the federal use of tools that can recover data from phones and computers.

It was while reading the Radio-Canada article in November that the commissioner, Philippe Dufresne, said he learned that at least 13 agencies and ministries federal authorities use these instruments.

His office should not learn about it after the fact, once the technologies have already been deployed, he told the Standing Committee of the ;access to information, privacy and ethics.

The tools used by different departments plug directly into a user's phone or computer and can extract all data, even that which is encrypted or protected by a password. Some software can also access a user's computer cloud and trace their activities on social networks, their Internet searches and deleted content.

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These two devices that allow data collection are examples of those purchased by some departments and agencies.

Data mining tools can be used in ways that raise significant privacy risks, says the commissioner.

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A federal directive requires departments to conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) before any new activity involving the collection or processing of personal information. This involves identifying privacy risks and measures to mitigate or eliminate these risks.

None of the 13 ministries in question have not carried out such an assessment in relation to data extraction tools.

Commissioner Dufresne deplores that this requirement is still not included in the Personal Information Protection Act, in order to make it a binding legal obligation.

He believes that this is all the more necessary in a context where technologies are becoming more and more powerful.

It will be even more important to reassure Canadians, he adds.

Mr. Dufresne says he contacted the 13 federal institutions following the Radio-Canada report to encourage them to conduct such an analysis.

But he maintains that not have the necessary powers to compel them to do so.

Eight organizations told the Commissioner that they had started carrying out a PIA or were exploring the possibility of carrying out one:

Four other organizations believe that it was not necessary, among other things, because they had carried out an evaluation several years ago for their entire survey program:

Finally, Natural Resources Canada told the Commissioner that it purchased the tool, but never used it.

The Commissioner privacy protection recognizes that data extraction tools can be useful in certain circumstances.

The idea is not It's not about refusing technology, it's about marking it, he says.

The 13 ministries in question will have the opportunity to explain their use of these instruments to the committee over the coming weeks. Some say they use them in internal investigations or to enforce laws.

One ​​of the committee members, NDP MP Matthew Green , is concerned that an even greater number of ministries are using these technologies without us knowing it. The committee agreed to contact each of the 137 federal institutions to demand accountability.

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