February 25, 2020

Honourable senators, the biggest privacy risk facing most Canadians is not a cyberhack; it’s when they press “I accept” without understanding the type and amount of private information they are sharing.

Forbes magazine has suggested that 90% of all data was generated in just the past two years. When you consider the ubiquitous nature of connected devices, such as phones, watches, cars, doorbells and even refrigerators, this assertion starts to make sense. Connected devices generate and transfer data minute by minute every day. Highly personal insights emerge from all our Google searches, emails, Facebook posts, likes, shares and tweets. Increasingly, it feels like we’re at the wrong end of a data vacuum, where streams of data are being transferred to privately owned databases and we have little idea how those data are used.

Opportunities abound in this emerging digital age, but Canadians will not fully benefit unless we strengthen our digital infrastructure, including our privacy laws and digital identity protocols. Only then will Canadians have the trust and confidence that their private data will be used to improve their lives and not used against their interests.

Trust is essential to prospering in the digital age. Our greatest corporate successes know that customer trust is central to their company’s growth and profitability. This includes Ottawa’s Shopify, which reached $1 billion in sales faster than any other company in North America before it.

Conversely, Fitbit users balked — and many of us have Fitbits — at the prospect of years of their data being acquired by Google when it bought the company last month for $2 billion. European and U.S. lawmakers are now questioning whether that acquisition should proceed.

Canada urgently needs to prioritize the strengthening of our invisible but all-important digital infrastructure. Regulatory certainty will help to build the public’s trust and unlock the investment needed for business to create digital solutions to some of society’s most pervasive challenges.

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