Canadian groups call for more careful consideration of artificial intelligence measures
Storm clouds pass by the Peace Tower and Parliament Hill on Tuesday August 18, 2020 in Ottawa. Dozens of civil society organizations, experts and academics are calling on the Liberal government to remove proposed measures on artificial intelligence from a federal privacy bill, saying they must be considered separately.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, September 25, 2023 8:01PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, September 25, 2023 8:01PM EDT
Dozens of civil society organizations, experts and academics are calling on the Liberal government to remove proposed measures on artificial intelligence from a federal privacy bill, saying they must be considered separately.
The Liberals introduced privacy legislation last year to give Canadians more control over how their personal data is used by commercial entities, impose fines for non-compliant organizations and introduce new rules for the use of artificial intelligence.
The groups and experts say in an open letter to Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne that the artificial intelligence section of the bill fails to protect the rights and freedoms of people from the risks of AI.
They contend Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada should not be the primary or sole drafter of a bill with broad human rights, labour and cultural effects.
The legislation is set to be studied by a House of Commons committee.
If the artificial intelligence section of the bill is withdrawn, regulatory efforts to address AI could still proceed and be in place by 2025, the letter says.
Meantime, the letter adds, MPs would have appropriate time to focus on the remainder of the bill, which raises significant concerns for privacy rights in Canada.
Among the groups to sign the letter were the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, OpenMedia and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.
The government says the artificial intelligence elements of the bill are aimed at protecting Canadians by ensuring high-impact AI systems are developed and deployed in a way that identifies, assesses and lessens the risks of harm and bias.
The bill would also establish an AI and Data Commissioner to monitor company compliance, order third-party audits and share information with other regulators.
In addition, the legislation would impose penalties regarding use of unlawfully obtained data for artificial intelligence development and for reckless deployment of AI.
The open letter says the bill suffers from a lack of public consultation and has several shortcomings.
It criticizes the legislation for not recognizing privacy as a fundamental human right, and says large gaps in definitions, such as for "high-impact system," leave major aspects of the bill "illegible and void of substance."