Committee of the Whole: Privacy Commissioner, Philippe Dufresne

By: The Hon. Clément Gignac

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East and West block of Parliament, Ottawa

Senator Gignac: Thank you for being here, Mr. Dufresne. I’d like to congratulate you on your very impressive career.

Mr. Dufresne, the data economy is growing exponentially. The prestigious MIT estimates that data increases in volume by 40% every year. My question is along the same lines as the one asked by Senator Deacon. What do you think your role is in ensuring that Canadians see more benefit from the value of their data, while making sure they also control how that data will be used?

Mr. Dufresne: Thank you for the question. The third element of the vision I put forward is protection of privacy as an accelerator of Canadians’ trust in the digital economy, among other things. I think there is a role to play there.

According to statistics from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, as reported in the 2022-23 annual plan, surveys showed that only 38% of Canadians felt the industry respected their privacy rights. That is a worrisome statistic that accurately conveys the perceptions of those surveyed. The office’s goal, which I agree with, is to raise that number significantly to about 90%. To help Canadians feel more confident in this respect, we need a strong legal regime grounded in good legislation and solid principles. We need legislation that is reasonable and balanced but that treats privacy as a basic right. Entities such as the Privacy Commissioner are crucial because they have the resources and the mandate to handle that protection and promotion role. It is important that Canadians know that when they participate in the industry, they have certain protections. They must also understand what they are consenting to and what their data will be used for, so that there is some incentive to participate in this economy. It becomes a place where you want to participate and do business.


When we talk about regimes that follow the rule of law, it benefits the industry for the same reason: The industry knows that it can rely on the regime and its principles. It requires good legislation, resources, an organization and good knowledge of the regime, which the Office of the Privacy Commissioner can undoubtedly promote and enhance. We also need incentives that go in the right direction, whether to encourage consumers to participate by reassuring them and providing them with better information, or to encourage the industry with clear and realistic standards, assisting them with information and dialogue in order to avoid a zero-sum game. Improving one does not mean taking away from the other. I think you have to improve both, and it is possible to do that.

Senator Gignac: Thank you, Mr. Dufresne.

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