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So the Canadian Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel issued a report called Canada’s Communications Future: Time to Act. I presume the time to act is now, and the things we need to act on are 97 recommendations according to the review. Number 93 of these is:

We recommend that the Ministers of Canadian Heritage and of Industry direct the [Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (“CRTC”)] to gather information, audit, and intervene, if necessary, with regard to how services covered by the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act combine algorithms and artificial intelligence with Big Data, in order to respond quickly to changes in the communications services, improve transparency, and promote trust.

This needs to be done, according to the review, because machine learning and artificial intelligence are going to fundamentally change our notions and privacy. Foreign companies will be able to or can already collect and use consumer data through the application of artificial intelligence to customize offerings in a way that will be challenging for existing Canadian companies, we are told. This will even creep into how artificial intelligence will have implications for the discoverability of Canadian content, and so the review tells the CRTC to focus on transparency, responsibility and accountability. Thus:

There is no question that Big Data processing and algorithmic processes based on artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies, present numerous commercial, scientific, and social benefits, and are critical to competition and innovation. Big Data and the significant growth in data monetization have, however, also raised ethical considerations regarding collective societal values as well as the ownership and authority to use the data gathered from users.

I’m not going to grapple with whether this content is correct in its analysis. But it seems kind of like a throw-in at number 93 of 97 recommendations. But what seems more concerning is that the proposal is to direct one discreet government regulatory body to start to focus on rules for  transparency and trust and to deal with ethical considerations. This seems largely backwards and a particularly not good idea. If each Canadian government regulatory body heads off on its own investigation as to ethical considerations, privacy protections and transparency rules, we run the risk of a mish mash of confusing non-dovetailing regulations that will be difficult for anyone to navigate.

It would be much better to start these investigations at the top of the government house and provide guidelines that work down.


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