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Ontario privacy commissioner to become Rye Big Data executive director

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By Andrea Vacl

An announcement on March 19 stated that Ann Cavoukian, the current Ontario information and privacy commissioner, will be Ryerson’s new Privacy and Big Data Institute’s executive director.

The new Institute will be providing research programs, developing technologies for data analytics and providing an incubation platform for start-ups.

“I’m just so excited!” Cavoukian said.  She will be beginning her new position on July 1 after serving as the Ontario information and privacy commissioner for 15 years.

During her time as the Ontario information and privacy commissioner she has also been involved in international committees on business, privacy, and technology; has written papers that now serve as international standards in privacy; and has been a guest lecturer at Ryerson.

“The sky is the limit in terms of innovation with big data and privacy.  So I want the Privacy and Big Data Institute to drive innovation,” Cavoukian said. “I want to make sure that Ryerson leads, and will lead globally, on big data efforts that are imbedded with privacy protective measures.”

Cavoukian is known for her development of “Privacy by Design”, an approach that has been accepted as an international standard on privacy and has been translated in to over 35 languages.

The main focus of “Privacy by Design” is to change the idea of privacy vs. security by showing that privacy and data co-exist, and encourages the integration of privacy in many different systems.

The Privacy and Big Data Institute will also work with the Big Data Initative (BDI) at Ryerson, which brings together the Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity, Centre for Cloud and Context Aware Computing, and Data Science Library to collaborate with industry partners in the development of big data based products and services.

“What I am suggesting we do is grow both big data and privacy together. The returns will be far greater and you will see a lot of creativity and innovation bring that about and I know we can do that at Ryerson,” said Cavoukian, who plans to add to the principles of “Privacy by Design” through innovative work at Ryerson.

After taking time to “be a sponge” and learn from her new colleagues at Ryerson, Cavoukian plans on developing partnerships and collaborations with other universities and organizations.

“I’ve already started in that area developing with people in the health care field for example because one of the huge areas of big data is in the area of health information and health research,” she said.

Cavoukian boasts a large network around the globe which she plans to use to develop partnerships and learn what is being done around the world in big data and privacy.

“I think in terms of privacy in big data we are going to take the lead.  There isn’t a lot being done in that area.  So the first thing I’ll do is make sure I know who is doing what in other jurisdictions and make sure that we not only match that but we exceed that.”

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