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Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner appointed executive director of Institute for Privacy and Big Data

Ann Cavoukian

Currently a distinguished visiting professor, Ann Cavoukian was also announced as the executive director of the new Ryerson University Institute for Privacy and Big Data.

Ryerson University has appointed Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ann Cavoukian, as the executive director of the new Ryerson University Institute for Privacy and Big Data. Currently a distinguished visiting professor at Ryerson, Cavoukian will take on this new role at the conclusion of her unprecedented third term as commissioner, on July 1, 2014.

“It has been an honour to serve as the Information and Privacy Commissioner for the past three terms, spanning over 15 years. Together with my hardworking and devoted staff, we have built a world-class agency, renowned for our innovation and leadership in access and privacy. We are grateful for the support of the many Ontarians who have shared with us their appreciation for the work we do and the impact we have had," says Cavoukian. "Having advised the Legislature that I would not be considering a fourth term as commissioner (three is more than enough!), I am delighted to be able to pursue my passion for preserving privacy, well into the future, with such a progressive university as Ryerson."

Big data – the acquisition, storage, processing, analysis and use of large data sets - has the potential to enable innovations and facilitate critical social interests with impacts felt at every level, from invaluable discoveries in health research, to mapping of human behaviour in the digital world, to management of natural resources. Ryerson’s cross- university Big Data Initiative (BDI) focuses on developing new tools and applying those tools to advance organizational performance across sectors. BDI brings together existing centres that collaborate with industry partners to drive the development of new big data based products and services, including Ryerson’s Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity, Ryerson’s Centre for Cloud and Context Aware Computing, and the Data Science Laboratory. The new Institute for Privacy and Big Data will help ensure privacy is considered at every stage of the process.

“The Institute for Privacy and Big Data will bring together experts from both within the university and beyond, to develop new ways to protect and promote people’s privacy in the digital age,” says Mohamed Lachemi, provost and vice president academic. “I would like to welcome world renowned privacy expert Dr. Cavoukian to Ryerson to lead this new initiative. I know her knowledge and expertise will have immediate impact and be of immeasurable benefit to our students.”

The new Institute for Privacy and Big Data, housed within Ryerson’s Faculty of Science is an important component of the university’s strategy, demonstrating how to harness the power of Big Data in ways that fully respects privacy. The institute’s main objectives are:

  • Promote the development of technologies that analyze data within an appropriate context and privacy-protective sphere, and applying those technologies in a positive-sum manner to the various sectors of big data in order to improve upon the value and utility of the associated analytics, all while strongly protecting the privacy of data-subjects.
  • Provide an educational platform to disseminate the techniques and procedures of privacy enhanced big data analytics through research programs.
  • Provide an incubation platform for startup companies to utilize these technologies for new markets and applications, uniquely positioning them as privacy by design applications, delivering both privacy and big data analytics.

Ryerson’s existing Privacy and Cyber Crime Institute (currently within the Ted Rogers School of Management) and the research conducted within it, including areas such as workplace privacy, data breaches, identity theft and online privacy, will become part of the new Institute under Cavoukian’s leadership. The institute will serve as a hub for Ryerson students, faculty and staff engaged in data-driven training, discovery, innovation and commercialization.

Cavoukian will take the helm of the new Ryerson Institute for Privacy and Big Data effective July 1, with an official launch to follow in the 2014-15 academic year.

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