On June 14th, 2018, ULI Toronto celebrated the Women’s Leadership Initiative’s Championship Team, which recognizes the achievements of women while continuing to support their presence and advancement in leadership roles within the real estate, development and city building professions in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton region. Since its inaugural year in 2014, the Championship Team has continued to expand by adding more inspiring and accomplished women in the industry to its ranks.
This year, industry members gathered to discuss growing concerns over data protection, surveillance, discrimination and lack of privacy in today’s digital society. Dr. Ann Cavoukian was featured as guest speaker, in conversation with Valerie Fox, who is the co-founder of the Digital Media Zone at Ryerson University and Chief Innovation Consultant at Pivotal Point. Dr. Cavoukian is recognized as one of the world’s leading privacy experts and is a distinguished Expert-in-Residence at the Privacy by Design Centre of Excellence at Ryerson University. Both Dr. Cavoukian and Fox are celebrated for their contributions to the industry and exemplify leadership in their roles as facilitators of creative design.
Dr. Cavoukian began her journey in Cairo, Egypt, where a political shift jeopardized her own personal freedom. At a young age, she learned the value of privacy, freedom and the importance of having personal control over the use of your information. “We need to instill an understanding in people who take freedom largely for granted today; what you need to do to preserve it,” Dr. Cavoukian explained to the ULI crowd.
As a consequence of social media and ubiquitous computing, our current regulatory compliance system “misses the majority of infractions and data breaches that occur,” she said. Cavoukian recognized that, “there was a need to introduce a model of prevention upfront that would proactively complement regulatory compliance.” She proposed her Privacy by Design model at the international assembly of privacy commissioners and data protection regulators in 2010, where it was passed as an international standard.
The European Union has since introduced a new overarching system called the General Data Protection Regulation, which will replace the previous model and offer privacy to individuals as an automatic right. In Canada, you must opt out of having your information accessible to unknown third parties. Without doing so “companies can use your information for a variety of secondary uses that were never consented to,” Dr. Cavoukian said. Her Privacy by Design standard shifts this to a model of positive consent.
We are faced with an opportunity to upgrade our privacy laws by incorporating Privacy by Design into policies and build trusted business relationships. “Privacy isn’t anti-marketing; its pro-choice,” Dr. Cavoukian said. It offers a competitive advantage to businesses. Although our privacy laws are dated, corporations such as Waterfront Toronto have expressed interest in implementing Privacy by Design into their smart city ambitions as opposed to pursuing the current smart city surveillance strategy, which Dr. Cavoukian says, “restricts your willingness to be creative and innovate.”
Throughout her journey, Dr. Cavoukian was confronted with many challenges. Her perseverance and passion in data protection and privacy has enabled her to overcome adversity. “Privacy forms the foundation to our freedom and you cannot have freedom in open societies without privacy,” she said. Her advice to anyone struggling to follow their passion is to “distinguish yourself, make it known what your special skills are and lean out.” It will be crucial to encourage children today, born in the digital age, to provide solutions and become our future generation of privacy leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators.