Ryerson’s director of privacy and big data says Canadians should be cautious of all things ‘smart’

As the number of Canadians actively using online platforms and apps grows, so does the concern over the protection of privacy and control over personal information.

Last week on The Disruptors, co-host Amber Kanwar sat down with Dr. Ann Cavoukian, the executive director of privacy and big data at Ryerson University, to discuss the state of privacy in Canada.

Cavoukian says that as more Canadians live their lives online, they have to recognize that their personal information is being collected in multiple ways through various apps, websites, and services.

“I always tell people to be aware of all things ‘smart,’” said Cavoukian. “It is unprecedented, the times we’re living in, in terms of how much information can be collected and retained indefinitely.”

During the interview, Kanwar asked Cavoukian about what she thinks of Edward Snowden, who recently called out Blackberry for its stance on privacy. Cavoukian said people owe Snowden “a huge debt of gratitude” for revealing how widely information is being captured and used for unintended purposes.

Cavoukian added that Snowden’s work has increased awareness about privacy among average citizens, in the US, and abroad. But while more people are aware that their information is being collected, there is still a need for policies and measures that protect citizens’ information.

“What it has done is that it has brought to the public’s attention the level of surveillance taking place,” said Cavoukian. “You cannot have freedom without privacy, so if you value your freedom… I urge people to keep these things in mind if you want to continue living in free and open societies.”

Kanwar says that Cavoukian makes a compelling link between privacy and freedom, yet what makes many budding companies stand out is their ability to collect large amounts of data.

“This is kind of this weird balance that needs to be struck, this hunger for more information and then this dark side of it,” said Kanwar.

Watch the full interview below:

BetaKit is a production partner on The Disruptors. Tune in to BNN every Thursday night at 7pm for full episodes!

Amira Zubairi

Amira Zubairi

Amira Zubairi is a staff writer at BetaKit. As a fourth-year journalism student who has written primarily about entrepreneurship, Amira has developed a growing interest in Canadian startup, business, and tech news. In her free time, Amira enjoys reading, baking and watching legal shows.