Today, 30 civil society organizations, experts, and academics — including the ICLMG — released an open letter to the House of Commons Industry Committee, urging them to hit the reset button and fully scrutinize the government’s controversial Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (AIDA). They recommend a full public consultation and redrafting of AIDA, starting with splitting AIDA from the other parts of Bill C-27, which deal with unrelated privacy matters, so that it can be subject to the careful democratic scrutiny it requires.
Highlighting what they describe as ISED’s mishandling of “a process biased heavily toward narrow industry interests”, the signatories call on MPs to ensure that any future public consultation is not stewarded exclusively by ISED. The call comes two weeks after Industry, Science, and Economic Development (ISED) Minister François-Philippe Champagne published a beefy, 38-page package of proposed amendments to AIDA, rivaling in size the text of the original bill, and fundamentally altering its shape and implications halfway through the committee’s study and after many witnesses have already testified — worsening the already problematic parliamentary process around this bill.
AIDA has been subject to fierce criticism since it was first introduced in June 2022, without the public consultation process that typically precedes similar legislation. Key concerns include:
- Its failure to recognize fundamental human rights, such as privacy and free expression, that AI must be designed and deployed to respect;
- Its lack of any independent oversight or enforcement, instead placing its AI & Data Commissioner under the authority of the Industry Minister, who sponsors and subsidizes the AI industry;
- Its failure to address the societal level risks of AIDA, including risks to marginalized communities;
- Its light-touch, mark-your-own-homework approach to regulating the AI industry, which is inconsistent with the serious potential dangers of AI;
- Its failure to consult the public, instead heavily prioritizing industry input;
- Its broad exemptions for private sector AI tech developed for government intelligence, defence and national security purposes, giving a free pass for some of the most potentially harmful AI tools.
Read the full letter here.
Read today’s press release here.
The letter’s signatories are:
- British Columbia Civil Liberties Association
- Digital Public
- International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group
- Privacy & Access Council of Canada
- Tech Reset Canada
- Canadian Civil Liberties Association
- Freedom of Information and Privacy Association
- Ligue des droits et libertés
- Centre for Digital Rights
- Centre for Free Expression
- Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)
Individuals (organizational affiliations for identification only)
- Ana Brandusescu, McGill University
- Andrew Clement, Professor emeritus, University of Toronto
- Fenwick McKelvey, Concordia University
- Dr. Kristen Thomasen, UBC
- Bianca Wylie, writer and public interest technology advocate
- Jonathan Roberge, Professor, Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS)
- Luke Stark, Western University
- David Murakami Wood, University of Ottawa
- David Lyon, Queen’s University
- Christelle Tessono, Tech Policy Researcher University of Toronto Faculty of Information
- Brenda McPhail, Ph.D., Acting Executive Director, Public Policy in Digital Society Program, McMaster University
- Bill Hearn, Lawyer, Fogler Rubinoff LLP
- Leslie Regan Shade, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto
- Maroussia Lévesque, Harvard University
- Ben Shneiderman, Professor Emeritus
- Gary Marcus, Professor Emeritus NYU
- Sara M. Grimes, University of Toronto
- Evan Light, York University
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