Privacy-bloggen: You have been acknowledged as being one of the first in the world who recognized the potential importance of technology to protect privacy and personal data and you have, as early as in the mid-1990s, presented the Privacy by Design concept. What is this concept about, and what impact do you reckon it will have in the future?
Ann Cavoukian: At the heart of Privacy by Design (PbD) is the tenet that individuals have the right to control their own personal information. Much more than a theoretical concept, Privacy by Design is a real-life solution that proactively embeds privacy into technologies, business practices and networked infrastructure at the outset to ensure that privacy is the default condition. Of course, building in privacy at the start is not always possible, which is why my Office recently introduced Privacy by ReDesign to implement PbD into already existing and legacy systems.
Regarding its future impact — the possibilities are limitless as technologies are forever changing. In this growing world of online social media, mobile devices, big data and of course cloud computing, privacy is paramount. But we must change our thinking from a zero-sum paradigm to positive-sum. This means that privacy is not sacrificed at the expense of other business interests, such as security. You can, and must, have both. Our interests are diverse — among other things, we want to socialize on the Internet, build a more sustainable electrical grid, utilize and share health records and more. We can do all of these things and still have privacy, but only if we prioritize it as a requirement for both new and existing technologies, infrastructures and business practices. Our need for privacy has not disappeared. On the contrary, privacy is an essential dimension of the human condition and it will continue to be well into the future.
Privacy-bloggen: We are living in a globalizing world driven by digitization. As the Internet knows no national boundaries, it seems reasonable to assert that there is a need for a global privacy regime. But is it possible, with the cultural and legal differences that exist, and is the way forward more likely to create a set of universal privacy principles that comply with the demands from consumers, businesses and governments?
Ann Cavoukian: Privacy is a fundamental right that knows no borders. Privacy by Design is a solution for everyone – consumers, businesses and governments. Last year, a landmark resolution was unanimously passed by global Data Protection Authorities to make Privacy by Design an international standard. This endorsement marks a sea change in how the international community will go about preserving privacy. Of course, my work does not end with this accomplishment. For over 20 years, as the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Canada, I have partnered with stalwarts such as IBM, Intel, and Nokia to advance Privacy by Design. Together, we have fostered innovation and accomplished groundbreaking work in many fields, including biometrics, the Smart Grid and even Targeted Advertising. Forging new relationships to advance Privacy by Design is not a hard sell. After all, Privacy by Design makes sense for everyone — especially businesses. Not only is it cheaper to build in privacy before a breach occurs, it is also a compelling way to win the trust of clients and build your brand.
Privacy-bloggen: Considering that legal responses often lag behind market and technology innovation, would you agree that self-regulation is an adequate and timely instrument to meet privacy and data protection challenges including citizen engagement and empowerment as a prerequisite for sustainable solutions?
Ann Cavoukian: To preserve privacy and adequately protect data, you need both self-regulation as well as regulatory oversight. However, with the rapidly changing pace of technology, it is difficult for legislation to keep up, which is why Privacy by Design is important. PbD is flexible and can be utilized by organizations from a small local business to a large government body. Regarding privacy protection, it is simply ‘good business’ for companies to be proactive and stay ahead of existing legislation. Strong privacy practices form the basis of a virtuous cycle that establishes trust of the brand in the minds of consumers, which leads to greater loyalty, ultimately driving competitive advantage.
The exponential growth of information and communications technology has benefited us in many ways, such as fostering citizen engagement and the empowerment of individual and collective voices. In my role as a Commissioner, overseeing both access and privacy, this information explosion has spurred a wide variety of challenges. Recently, I have been particularly concerned at the lack of understanding between the concepts and purposes of Big Data and Open Data. Simply stated, Big Data describes the ever-increasing massive amounts of information that organizations have, and continue to collect — much of which is personally identifiable information. On the other hand, Open Data rests on the idea that certain types of non-personal information such as maps, medical research etc., should be freely available to unrestricted use by everyone. Open Data encourages civic participation and redefines the importance of freedom of information legislation across the globe. As the Big Data movement continues to grow and evolve, it is well worth holding onto the fact that privacy remains fundamental to our freedom.
Dr. Ann Cavoukian, since 1997 the Canadian Province of Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, is recognized as one of the leading privacy experts in the world.
The post is the English edition of the post on Privacy-bloggen.