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A Look Back at 2020: Commissioner's Highlights

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

Commissioner White offers his highlights on a difficult year for Bermuda and the world...

Well, that went about as we expected, didn't it?

In all seriousness, this was a difficult year for many, and my heart goes out to the individuals who suffered personal tragedies. It feels almost like an oxymoron to discuss "2020 Highlights," but there were certainly noteworthy moments - and not just in the field of data protection and privacy.

Thanks to Covid-19, the year has been dominated by issues of public health - and therefore health privacy. Our office's first guidance discussed issues surrounding the collection of health data by employers and notes on restaurant and business collection of contact tracing data. After a year spent working with Government civil servants on technological responses to contact tracing, in a December blog post I discussed the WeHealth Bermuda app and why I chose to download it myself.

Both in Bermuda and elsewhere, events focused our attention on racial injustice - not new issues but ones receiving new attention. In our blog post, "Bravery to Overcome Bias," we affirmed our office's commitment to reject racism and discrimination - conscious or unconscious, subtle or explicit. There is no place for such actions in our modern world. This bizarre year without a Cup Match also saw Bermuda's first Mary Prince Day, which our office marked with a discussion on "The Value of Rights, Freedoms, and Protections."

This year, we laid important foundations for the work to come - and I don't just mean our office's logo and motto. Our first commissioned report, the "Bermuda Report on Information Accountability," outlined the importance of demonstrating one's due diligence to protect privacy, and what that means organisations should do. We established the guiding philosophies of our office and how our community may synthesise the business and legal demands from both sides of the pond using the "Mid-Atlantic Privacy Compass." It was a personal highlight to give related speeches at graduation ceremonies for training programmes and at the Bermuda Tech Summit (video available here).

While public health lockdowns limited our abilities and fora to engage with the public, we've done our best to forge ahead with online and virtual discussions and meetings. Those interactions are among my year's personal highlights, as I have gotten the chance to meet so many Bermudians - often with a professional interest in growing their data protection skills. We have established a Bermuda chapter of the International Association of Privacy Professionals to cultivate Bermudian expertise, and we have worked closely with colleagues in other fields, such as through the Association of Bermuda Insurers & Reinsurers (ABIR) Data and Privacy Taskforce. To promote a responsible approach to new and innovative technologies, we created the Privacy Innovation and Knowledge-sharing (or, "Pink") Sandbox as a vehicle for communicating specific advice to organisations.

One of my most memorable months was working with our 2020 summer interns (fully remotely!) on a variety of topics, from Privacy by Design to a Privacy Playlist (or "mix tape" as I kept calling it), with discussions about some of the most complex and cutting-edge privacy issues (Part 1 and Part 2). Here in Bermuda, we find ourselves with what must be the highest talent-to-square-mile ratio in the world!

We have worked to increase Bermuda's presence on the international stage, gaining membership or observer status in a variety of privacy and data protection regulatory bodies and assemblies. In this way, we may demonstrate Bermuda's commitment to regulatory excellence and preserve an influential voice in global discussions. It involved a lot of getting up early or staying up late, but the opportunity to collaborate with peers always provided something of value for our office.

One of the stories of the year has been "Brexit," but despite the United Kingdom's change in European Union membership, Bermuda's domestic privacy protections - as well as the rights enshrined in treaties such as the European Convention on Human Rights - remain unchanged. (We wrote about the 70th anniversary of the ECHR, and its impact on Bermuda law, on our blog.)

For PrivCom in 2020, as I look with excitement to 2021, I keep coming back to the thought that we're only getting started...

I wish you and yours the best in the new year!

Alexander McD White

Privacy Commissioner

To reach out to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, please visit our Contact Us page.


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