Ontario's Privacy Commissioner raises concerns over use of artificial intelligence in hiring process

Commissioner highlights vulnerability of employees' data

Ontario's Privacy Commissioner raises concerns over use of artificial intelligence in hiring process
Patricia Kosseim | Image credit: Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario’s website

Patricia Kosseim, Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, has expressed reservations regarding schedule 2 of Bill 149, the Working for Workers Four Act, 2023, which addresses using artificial intelligence in hiring. In a written submission, Kosseim highlighted the transparency requirements outlined in the bill, emphasizing the obligation for employers to disclose the use of AI in job postings.

The proposed transparency provision mandates that employers using AI for screening, assessing, or selecting applicants must include a statement acknowledging its use. However, Kosseim noted the inadequacy of this provision in safeguarding employees’ privacy rights from potential adverse impacts. She argued that mere disclosure falls short of protecting employees from unfair hiring decisions or providing recourse in cases of discriminatory outcomes.

Kosseim emphasized that artificial intelligence technologies (AITs) are rapidly evolving and diverse, as these technologies could be involved in various recruitment phases, from employee evaluation to decision-making processes throughout their tenure. She stressed the fallibility of AITs, citing instances of biased and discriminatory outcomes documented elsewhere.

Furthermore, the commissioner advocated for a more comprehensive privacy protection regime, encompassing broader data protection rights and stricter regulations on digital technologies, including AITs, across all sectors, especially in employment. She called for robust guardrails, including restrictions on data usage, enhanced transparency requirements, and mechanisms for redress in cases of privacy violations.

Kosseim highlighted the importance of consistently defining AI across legislative and policy frameworks, advocating for harmonization with federal and international proposals. She also supported broad consultation to ensure marginalized groups’ perspectives are considered in defining AI.

At the end of the written submission, Kosseim urged policymakers to undertake comprehensive privacy law reform, transcending piecemeal amendments like those proposed in Bill 149. She asserted that without stringent guardrails, Ontario’s workers remain vulnerable to the potential harms posed by AITs, emphasizing the need for a proactive and inclusive approach to safeguard privacy rights in the digital age. She also offered further clarifications and support to policymakers.

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