Public Sector Use of Private Sector Personal Data: Towards Best Practices

Paper by Teresa Scassa: “Governments increasingly turn to the private sector as a source of data for various purposes. In some cases, the data that they seek to use is personal data. The public sector use of private sector personal data raises several important law and public policy concerns. These include the legal authority for such uses; privacy and data protection; ethics; transparency; and human rights. Governments that use private sector personal data without attending to the issues that such use raises may breach existing laws, which in some cases may not be well-adapted to evolving data practices. They also risk undermining public trust.

This paper uses two quite different recent examples from Canada where the use of private sector personal data by public sector actors caused considerable backlash and led to public hearings and complaints to the Privacy Commissioner. The examples are used to tease out the complex and interwoven law and policy issues. In some cases, the examples reveal issues that are particular to the evolving data society and that are not well addressed by current law or practice. The paper identifies key issues and important gaps and makes recommendations to address these. Although the examples discussed are Canadian and depend to some extent on Canadian law and institutions, the practices at issue are ones that are increasingly used around the world, and many of the issues raised are broadly relevant…(More)”.