On September 13th, my fellow interns and I had the pleasure of visiting the offices of both the Integrity and Privacy Commissioners of Ontario on the same day. As independent officers of the Legislative Assembly, both commissioners strive to make the government more responsive and accountable to the public. Beginning with Integrity Commissioner Lynn Morrison, we learned that her office has five key areas of responsibility. Firstly, the Integrity Commissioner advises MPP’s on conflict of interest issues. For example, what kind of gifts can members accept from public groups? Secondly, the Integrity Commissioner also performs a similar function for Ministers’ Staff: what norms and rules of conduct must they follow in their daily work and personal lives? What restrictions do they face upon leaving the government? Thirdly, the Integrity Commissioner has the responsibility for receiving and addressing issues of wrongdoing from current and former public servants. Commissioner Morrison advised us that the information reported by public servants is confidential and is forwarded to senior officials for redress. Fourthly, under the Lobbyists Registration Act of 1998, the Integrity Commissioner is also responsible for maintaining an online public record on the activities of paid lobbyists. Finally, the office also has the responsibility of reviewing the expenses of Cabinet Ministers and their staff to ensure that funds are being spent ethically and efficiently.
After our informative and pleasant meeting with Integrity Commissioner Lynn Morrison, we proceeded to our next meeting with Information and Privacy Commissioner, Dr. Ann Cavoukian, on Bloor Street. After settling in, Commissioner Cavoukian wasted no time in jumping into her presentation. Using her brilliant oratory skills, Commissioner Cavoukian proceeded to tell us about her award winning work on ‘Privacy by Design’. Commissioner Cavoukian explained that, in order to address privacy related concerns associated with large scale networked infrastructures, companies must begin to embed privacy into the very core of their design; from end to end. This means that a company’s business practices, processes, physical design and informational technology should, as Dr. Cavoukian said, have privacy as their ‘default setting’. By proactively adopting her mantra of ‘Privacy by Design’, Dr. Cavoukian believes that companies can reduce privacy related problems, while maintaining full functionality. This “user centric approach” to privacy protection would also help protect individual users against threats. After the hour long presentation that felt more like 20 minutes, I was left in awe of Commissioner Cavoukian. Not only did I learn a lot about new innovations in privacy, but also I felt like I received a crash course on how to make an effective presentation! Truly amazing!