Privacy by Design

Earlier this month we had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Ann Cavoukian, the provincial privacy commissioner.  Talking to a few people after the lunch seminar it really sunk in that we are so fortunate to have a person with such an international profile in our own backyard.

The session was jointly sponsored by my office and The Surveillance  Studies Centre at Queen’s.  Needless to say there was a heavy focus on surveillance, that included an impassioned plea by the commissioner to protect what we have, and exercise our rights through engagement.  It was a fascinating overview with some interesting insights into something I haven’t thought a lot about.

The piece that I was most interested in was the work the office has done on Privacy by Design.  Dr. Cavoukian has a compelling argument that introducing technology doesn’t imply that we have a zero sum game, as long as we take privacy into account in the upfront design of our systems.  Sometimes I find that there is a perception in the community that the introduction of technology into many parts of our lives has inherently compromised our privacy.  If you practice privacy by design you can have both the technology and the privacy.

This is particularly relevant to us in higher education as we  continue looking towards technology to streamline our business process and drive efficiencies in order to balance our bottom lines and keep up with the community demand for new and richer services.  As we venture into the cloud  we must ensure that we actively embrace our role as stewards of the information that is entrusted to us.  We must understand the differences between private information and confidential information, the implications and limitations of encryption and how we build transparency into our processes.

When we recently rolled out Office 365, we undertook a Privacy Risk Assessment at the beginning of the process. At the end of the day I think we have a better service, where we had a much better understanding of privacy and our role going forward.  We ensured that the community reaped the benefits of a much richer collaborative suite, while not compromising privacy – win-win.



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