Canada: Insights From The I Spy Conference On Big Data And Privacy

On Friday February 5, 2016, we attended the I Spy: Opportunities and Challenges Surrounding Privacy and Big Data conference organized by the Osgoode JD/MBA Students' Association. Speakers from industry, government and private practice explored the challenge organizations face in maximizing insights from big data while maintaining a respect for individual privacy.

While we often see major privacy breaches as the subject of front-page news stories, most breaches are actually unknown and unregulated. As the promise of new insights drives business to collect and analyze more data than ever before, it will be more and more important for organizations and governments to develop frameworks for detecting privacy breaches and protecting individuals' data. In her keynote address Dr. Ann Cavoukian, Executive Director of the Privacy and Big Data Institute, warned that a reactive approach to privacy protection has been failing. A reactive approach creates the potential for financial costs from class actions and regulatory penalties as well as damage to a company's brand and the loss of consumer trust.

Dr. Cavoukian argued that, when it comes to privacy concerns, organizations should be proactive, focusing on identifying risks and imposing preventative measures to guard against privacy breaches. She discussed her solution; "Privacy by Design" ("PbD"),  an approach to privacy that she developed as Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner in the 1990s. It is based on seven pillars:

  1. Proactive, not reactive: PbD anticipates privacy risks and aims to prevent them, rather than resolve infractions after they have happened.
  2. Privacy as the default: Personal data should be automatically protected in all business systems. Individuals have to opt-in to having their information disclosed, as opposed to opt-out. If their personal data is going to be used for a purpose that differs from what they originally consented to, they must agree to that.
  3. Privacy Embedded in design: Privacy is a core tenant of IT systems in a business. It is not simply an after-the-fact addition.
  4. Full functionality: Dr. Cavoukian emphasized that privacy should not be seen as detracting from innovation. Privacy and the insights that can be gained from big data are not mutually exclusive. There can be a "positive sum" outcome whereby privacy is protected and innovation is fostered.
  5. Full lifecycle protection: Data is protected from the moment of collection to its eventual destruction. Data is securely collected, stored and destroyed.
  6. Visibility and transparency: Organizations' adherence to privacy regulations are subject to independent verification. Stakeholders can verify that the relevant data is being treated appropriately.
  7. Respect for user privacy: The individual's privacy is paramount. They are empowered to make choices about their own data.

While Dr. Cavoukian focused on the privacy aspect of big data, we also attended a panel on collecting and selling data where panelists discussed the challenge of protecting sensitive customer data while respectfully leveraging it to help inform business strategy. This is increasingly difficult as the approach to privacy protection evolves beyond an individual reading a privacy statement and checking a box. More companies are developing data stewardship roles to govern what data to collect, how to collect it, validate it, hold it, classify it, disseminate it and use it. As regulations and data collection methods evolve, businesses are faced with difficult questions including:

  • What constitutes identifying information? Companies often adopt strategies to anonymize data to reduce privacy risks and facilitate the efficient use of collected data. The question for these companies is: What constitutes identifying information? If data can be linked to information that can be used to identify an individual, it is identifying. While name and street address are obvious identifiers, an IP address can also be used to identify an individual. It is often difficult to determine when data has been de-identified.
  • What constitutes notice and consent? Under Canadian privacy law, consumers should be given notice of what their personal information will be used for and consent to that specific use. Privacy law in Canada is premised on the idea that personal data is collected for an identifiable purpose, which can be understood by the individual, allowing meaningful consent to be obtained by organizations. Big data challenges that premise in at least two ways. First, the uses of the information are difficult to articulate and understand. How can businesses ensure that individuals are able to understand exactly what their data is used for when the sophisticated statistical and technological methods of analysis are often incomprehensible for many leaders in the businesses themselves? Second, the analysis of data often reveals new opportunities for uses that may not have been contemplated at the time of collection. This is problematic because if a business collects information from individuals for a certain purpose but wishes to use it for a different purpose they are required by Canadian privacy law to obtain new consent from the individuals. Obtaining this new consent post-collection raises a host of operational issues. This issue arises frequently because the ultimate purposes of data collection is often not known until after the data has been collected and analyzed.

What we learned at the conference was that Big Data may be able to coexist with Big Privacy. The goal of privacy is not to eliminate the risk of data breaches but to reduce it. As the big data universe becomes increasingly important and complex, business may think of privacy not as stifling innovation but rather as driving innovators to think creatively, to advance strategic goals to better serve customers.

To view the original article please click here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.