“Embed data privacy proactively to win big time.”

Why global privacy expert Dr. Ann Cavoukian says the benefits of data privacy justify the cost

“Information is the new currency of our economy.” In 2014, thus began “De-identification Protocols: Essential for Protecting Privacy”, the paper co-authored by Dr. Ann Cavoukian with Privacy Analytics founder Dr. Khaled El-Emam, and current Privacy Analytics Chief Methodologist Luk Arbuckle. At time of writing, IBM had estimated 2.5 quintillion bytes of information were being created daily and expected to increase exponentially. As the authors observed, “this information is also becoming easier to collect, retain, use, disclose and leverage for a wide range of secondary uses.”

Dr. Cavoukian is a data privacy pioneer. Her book, “Privacy Payoff: How Successful Businesses Build Customer Trust” (McGraw-Hill, 2002) remains a must-read. Her Privacy by Design (PbD) program has been recognized by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the International Conference of Data Protection Authorities, and translated into 40 languages. Dr. Cavoukian’s work in the healthcare sector has been a benchmark for HIPAA. Currently the Distinguished Expert-in-Residence leading the Privacy by Design Centre of Excellence at Ryerson University in Toronto, Dr. Cavoukian is constantly solicited for her insights.

“What concerns me the most,” says Dr. Cavoukian, “is the steady growth of surveillance. Surveillance by itself, doesn’t recognize context. Only the individual knows the full context of the information that is gathered about them. The public, and rightfully so, is asking questions about the information that’s being gathered, and how it’s going to be used. The essence of privacy is personal control.”

So how do organizations strike a balance between data gathering and privacy? “I avoid the use of the word ‘balance’,” says Dr. Cavoukian. “Because balance implies a zero sum, which implies that one party wins and one party loses. I prefer to use a positive sum model, where it’s a win-win for all the parties involved.”

When the discussion turns to the cost of investing in data privacy solutions, Dr. Cavoukian responds pointedly. “Of course there’s a cost, but that cost associated with data privacy is a fraction of what an organization’s cost will be in the case of a data breach. So really, data privacy is the minimal cost of doing good business. And privacy is good for business!”

Privacy by Design being a key component in the development of GDPR legislation, Dr. Cavoukian understands how regulatory impact compels organizations to change the way they manage data privacy. “Change takes considerable effort, but I make the case that multiple gains accrue when you develop a trusted business relationship with the public. When you make privacy the default setting in your dealings with the public, you get their buy-in automatically. Strong de-identification of data is the best way to do that.”

Dr. Cavoukian continues, “When you embed privacy into the design of your data architecture, privacy breeds innovation. Being proactive is essential. I tell companies that they have to know what personally identifiable data is flowing through their portals on a daily basis. And I ask them the questions they need to hear: ‘Do you have a data map? Do you know where the data flows throughout your organization? Do you know why data privacy gives you a competitive advantage?’”

To the emerging class of Chief Data Officers, Dr. Cavoukian has some strong advice. “Public opinion is overwhelming. Recent polls put people’s concern for their privacy in the 90th percentile. That’s huge! So my message is, make data privacy a priority. Embed it proactively into your operations and you will win, big time.”

Click (the link) to access the webcast of Dr. Cavoukian’s in-depth conversation with Luk Arbuckle.

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