Privacy Commissioner’s Term Coming to an End

Matt Lonsdale is a JD Candidate at Dalhousie University

This November, Jennifer Stoddart’s term as Canada’s Privacy Commissioner will come to an end. The Conservative government may choose to re-appoint her and Stoddart has indicated she would accept the appointment if it were offered. However, the Vancouver Sun is reporting that it’s uncertain whether they will, given their recent decisions not to renew the appointments of several other government officials.

During Stoddart’s seven year term the profile of the Privacy Commissioner’s office was raised significantly, a result at least partially attributable to her public image as an ardent advocate for online privacy. In 2009, her office’s investigation and subsequent report on Facebook’s privacy policies made headlines and were a resounding success. In January of this year, following up on a new complaint, another probe into the social networking giant was launched. An announcement concerning this investigation is expected shortly. Stoddart also became known internationally following her outspoken criticism of the manner in which Google released their social networking tool Buzz.

Under Stoddart, the Privacy Commissioner’s office also embraced their mandate to raise public awareness of privacy issues. Over the last year the office held a series of public consultations in cities across to Canada, with the stated goal of promoting debate “about the impact of these technological developments on privacy” . Additionally, the PrivacyComm YouTube channel contains 49 videos relating to privacy issues, aimed at audiences ranging from children and teenagers to business owners.

Technology is making privacy concerns more palpable worldwide. Last week, an IPilogue post evaluated contemporary German approaches to privacy concerns, discussing a bill that would prohibit employers from investigating potential employees through social networking sites, and the effects of the nation’s strong reaction to Google Street View. A second post scrutinized the North American privacy-law-enforcement nexus. Regardless of who is appointed, Canada’s next Privacy Commissioner is sure to have his or her hands full.