Scott Hutton to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics

From: Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

November 1, 2018

Parliament of Canada

Ottawa, Ontario

Scott Hutton, Executive Director, Broadcasting

Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission

Check against delivery

Thank you, Mr. Chair, for this opportunity to participate in the Committee’s valuable examination of how to better protect the private data of Canadians.

My name is Scott Hutton and I’m the Executive Director of Broadcasting for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission – the CRTC. Joining me today are my colleagues Neil Barratt, Director of Electronic Commerce Enforcement, and Rachelle Frenette, Senior Legal Counsel.

As the Committee members know, the CRTC derives its mandate from legislation. The Broadcasting Act authorizes the CRTC to regulate the industry in pursuit of specific objectives, including to encourage the creation and promotion of content made by Canadians and that reflects Canadians in all their facets.

Similarly, the Telecommunications Act assignsthe CRTC the mandate to regulate the telecommunications industry in pursuit of particular goals. For instance, ensuring that Canadians in urban and rural areas have access to reliable, affordable and high-quality telecommunications services. The Telecommunications Act also gives the CRTC the authority to regulate unsolicited telecommunications and to take enforcement action against non-compliant telemarketers.

For its part, Canada’s anti-spam legislation authorizes the CRTC to regulate specific types of electronic communications. These include the transmission of commercial electronic messages, the alteration of transmission data in electronic messages and the installation of programs on another person’s computer system.

Of course, the CRTC, like all other federal departments and agencies, abides by Canada’s Privacy Act. Moreover, the Telecommunications Act requires that the telecommunications sector contribute to the protection of the privacy of individuals. The CRTC’s policies in this area are limited to the protection of confidential consumer information held by telecommunications service providers.

The CRTC appreciates the Committee’s work on digital platforms. Earlier this year, we published a report titled Harnessing Change: The Future of Programming Distribution in Canada.

The report’s perspective is informed by the CRTC’s mandate, of course. As such, much of the report focuses on the creation, distribution and promotion of Canadian audiovisual content. In the digital age, users can now access a growing wealth of content and platforms. As a result, the traditional regulatory approach is less and less able to attain the objectives set out in legislation such as the Broadcasting Act.

To address this reality, the report suggests innovative approaches to policy and regulation – approaches that would engage digital platforms that provide audiovisual content to Canadians.

We proposed that three principles should guide any new approaches:

  • First, future policy approaches should not only focus on the production and promotion of high-quality content made by Canadians, but also on its discoverability.
  • Secondly, all players that benefit from participation in the broadcasting system should contribute in an appropriate and equitable manner. New policies and regulation must recognize that the social and cultural responsibilities that come with operating in Canada extend to digital platforms.
  • And finally, future legislation and regulation must be nimble and capable of easily adapting to ever-changing consumer behaviour and technologies.

The report also identifies some of the opportunities created by the evolution of digital technologies. For example, data on how people find, select and interact with content could inform how to develop and distribute content in ways that support Canada’s broader policy objectives.

That being said, we recognize that digital-communications technologies pose particular risks to the protection of personal information. The report describes the problem as follows:

“The development of these online services has also given rise to new ways of misusing data—for example, to infringe on the privacy of Canadians—particularly when services collect data without users’ knowledge or informed consent. Data can also be used to misinform and manipulate through fake or misleading news and information, affecting democratic processes, relationships with others and the way Canadians view the world.”

The CRTC firmly believes that protecting the personal data of Canadians and preventing abuses must remain the overriding consideration. The legislative and regulatory frameworks that govern the protection of privacy and the use of personal data, however, are not part of the CRTC’s mandate.

Thank you. We will do our best to answer the questions of Committee members.

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