This past week marked the second half of the 51st Session on Statistical Commission, which took place at the United Nations from March 3rd to the 6th. As we enter into this final decade of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the year 2030, there is a need to gather more data from Member States. There is a need to incorporate Big Data into the national statistical systems, in order to discuss how they address issues related to necessity and proportionality.
Statistics Canada, the national statistical office for the country of Canada, did just this during their side event on March 3rd. Daniel Therrien, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, stated that “privacy is a prerequisite for freedom” and that one should not be disregarded for the other. However, he also pointed out that in order to have privacy there needed to be trust; trust between the people and the state. Statistics Canada, works to promote transparency as they collect information from the Canadian people. They also stated that the role of statistical agencies is very prevalent because data driven technology can be a destructive force.
The motto for the Sustainable Development Goals is ensuring that no one is being left behind, that is why both Statistics Canada and the United Nations Statistical Division are calling for more information to be produced and hoping to propel all those involved to consider new solutions. The world is in constant evolution; both connectivity and mobility have sharply increased, which is a positive. This connectivity has led to advancements in how information is gathered and the technology that is being used, but it still needs needs to be thought through seriously.
The international community is responding positively to all these new advancements on gathering data. NGOs are now making the movie to more administrative data, and Big Data. In 2018-2019, this Commission discussed Big Data, Open Data, and resisted Quality Assurance Frameworks; Big Data is being used more to gather a wider and more comprehensive range of information. The High-Level Group for the Modernisation of Official Statistics (HLG-MOS) is investigating modern methods that can be more efficient for gathering data.
Statistics Canada has developed a Necessity and Proportionality Framework and is working with the office office of Privacy Commissioner to finalize and me and it refrain. The framework is anchored in the scientific approach (rigorous, interactive , transparent) and based on consultation with statisticians, privacy experts, legal experts, and transparent. Necessity is the amount of information that is actually needed by the state and the loss of privacy is proportional to the need.
Statistics Canada also stated that there could be a less intrusive way to get data and it is going to be interesting to see the methods that are going to be made.