Ann Cavoukian has a plan to shore up privacy in a ubiquitously connected world


Ann Cavoukian is interested in your privacy, especially in a world where everything is connected to everything else. If you thought you were living in a technology landscape filled with data and analytics, you haven’t seen anything yet, she warned. As the number of devices on the Internet grows, and as they become an increasingly intimate part of your daily routine, the threat to privacy will only continue to grow.

Cavoukian is the former privacy commissioner of Ontario, and now heads up Ryerson University’s Privacy and Big Data Institute. She masterminded Privacy by Design (PbD), a set of seven principles that advocates privacy as a fundamental design characteristic for modern technology systems.

Privacy needs to be a first-class citizen more than ever in a world filled with connected devices designed to talk directly to each other, Cavoukian told SecTor in her video interview, which you can see here:


All of our devices are collecting data that can paint a detailed picture of our lives, often without our knowledge or consent, she warned. Whether they’re monitoring the speed and location of your car, measuring the energy usage in your house, or assessing what you’re watching on TV, they are creating a digital impression of your daily activities.

Because IoT devices are often programmed to communicate that data to other services, it can be combined in different ways. Big data thrives on a steady, high-volume stream of structured and unstructured data that can be combined and trawled to find emerging behaviour, or make predictions about our circumstances.

Sometimes these predictions will be accurate, and sometimes they won’t. The point is that usage of that data is opaque. There isn’t much transparency, if any.

Canvoukian is pushing for PbD to be embedded into the big data structures that source information from the IoT. One aspect that she’s pushing for is the systematic de-identification of IoT data sets. Stripping out personally-identifiable information can be effective, she said, in spite of several high-profile attacks that have been mounted on such data.

Cavoukian talked about the principles underlying PbD during her Sector 2015 keynote speech, which you can see here: