Cybera’s take on Canada signing the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement

On May 3, 2021, Cybera submitted its response to Global Affairs Canada’s consultation on Canada’s possible accession to the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA)

The Digital Economy Partnership Agreement is a new international trade policy instrument that aims to address the transborder governance of a number of emerging digital economy issues. Initiated by Chile, New Zealand and Singapore, and open to any World Trade Organization (WTO) member, DEPA aims to add enhanced commitments to digital trade policy on issues such as Artificial Intelligence, personal information protection, and digital inclusion. 

Canada is considering signing on to DEPA to augment its existing digital trade policy commitments, such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and WTO, among others. 

Cybera has commented on Canada’s personal information protection and digital trade regimes in previous consultations, including ones related  to transborder data flows and the modernization of Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). These consultations contributed to the passing of the Consumer Privacy Protection Act in November 2020. 

In the current consultation, Cybera recommends that the Government of Canada build on the framework created in its recent legislative changes when approaching DEPA. We feel the text of DEPA should strike a balance between the relative free-flow of data between member nations for scholarly and commercial innovation, and the rights of individuals to trust that their data is collected and used responsibly. 

In this consultation, Cybera recommends that:

  • The principles statement of DEPA be updated to explicitly include a consent regime, to make it more in line with PIPEDA.
  • DEPA be updated to more explicitly reference the importance of data collection and use for non-commercial activities, including academic research.
  • DEPA provide an explicit definition for AI, modeled on the Government of Canada’s Treasury Board Directive on Artificial Intelligence, which reads:
    • Artificial Intelligence: Information technology that performs tasks that would ordinarily require biological brainpower to accomplish, such as making sense of spoken language, learning behaviours, or solving problems.
    • Automated Decision System: Includes any technology that either assists or replaces the judgement of human decision-makers. These systems draw from fields like statistics, linguistics, and computer science, and use techniques such as rules-based systems, regression, predictive analytics, machine learning, deep learning, and neural nets.

The decision on Canada’s possibile accession to DEPA will follow after the completion of this consultation by Global Affairs Canada. You can check back here to see updates of DEPA as it continues to be debated and passed. 

Read Cybera’s full submission to this consultation.

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