Contributions Program projects underway

On April 21, 2016, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) announced funding for a new round of independent research and knowledge translation projects supported through its Contributions Program. These projects will be completed by March 31, 2017. The OPC will post summaries of the completed projects, as well as links to their deliverables once projects are finalized and reviewed by the OPC. 

The following is a list of the funded projects currently underway for 2016-17:

Project Title: Decision-Making and Privacy: How Youth Make Choices About Reputational and Data Privacy Online
Organization: MediaSmarts
Project Leader: Jane Tallim
Location: Ontario
Funding Amount: $49,995.00

Project Description: The success of Snapchat, and similar apps that let young people selectively share photos and videos in a way that is less permanent, has shown that youth do make decisions based on privacy concerns. What we don’t yet know is how they make those decisions and how we might encourage them to consider data privacy as well as reputational privacy. This research project looks at the reasoning that youth ages 12 to 16 apply to make decisions relating to certain online representations on their reputation, and the disclosure of their personal information. The research will shed light on the steps that youth take in making their decisions, the outside factors that influence their decisions, and whether demographic factors, such as age and gender, have an impact on their decision making process. The results will be useful for improving public and parent knowledge around privacy, creating educational interventions relating to privacy, and providing guidance to industry about best practices for handling young people's content and data.

Project Title: Big Data Ethics Initiative: Assessment for Canadian Organizations
Organization: Information Accountability Foundation (IAF)
Project Leader: Martin Abrams
Location: Arkansas, USA
Funding Amount: $33,283.80 (CND)

Project Description: Big data processing creates significant accountability challenges for organizations that seek insights from the correlations that exist between diverse data sets, and for the governmental agencies that oversee data protection and privacy. These challenges exist because uses of big data stretch the purposes for which data was first created and produce insights that are new data elements in and of themselves. Big data analytics are conducted at a distance from the individual, and governance concepts, such as consent, are not fully effective as a result. To be trustworthy, big data analytics must be governed, but information policy governance has lagged behind the development of big data. The Big Data Ethics Initiative of the Information Accountability Foundation will fill this governance gap. In particular, the project will build on the IAF’s unique and extensive expertise in this area, by creating for the Canadian context an assessment process to determine whether big data undertakings are legal, fair, and just, and identifying the elements necessary for an assessment framework to fit into a code of conduct or practice that might be enforceable by Canadian governmental regulatory agencies.

Project Title: Understanding, Discovering and Asserting Personal Privacy Preferences: A Feasibility Study
Organization: Ontario College of Art and Design
Project Leader: Jutta Treviranus
Location: Ontario
Funding Amount: $50,000.00

Project Description: Persons with disabilities, persons who are aging, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or questioning (LGBTQ) community, and other minorities are the most vulnerable to the misuse or abuse of personal information. Among the risks are: denial of insurance, jobs or services; fraud, identify theft and cyberbullying. This project proposes to develop a mechanism to empower the consumer to determine and assert personal preferences regarding the use of personal information through the extension of an international standard called AccessForAll (also referred to as ISO 24751). This extension to the international standard will be co-designed with relevant communities most at risk, and presented to the international standards body (ISO JTC1 SC36) for proposed adoption. The project will be an important step in empowering vulnerable populations to take advantage of emerging smart services without the risk of their personal information being abused.

Project Title: E-Learning Courses on Anonymizing Data
Organization: Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) Research Institute
Project Leader: Khaled El Emam
Location: Ontario
Funding Amount: $50,000.00

Project Description: CHEO Research Institute will create a one-day, e-learning course on anonymizing data for the private sector, in English and French, using as a baseline the Guide to the De-Identification of Personal Health Information (CRC Press, 2013), by Khaled El Emam, as well as updated research and guidelines in this area. The course will be for practitioners looking to apply the best guidelines and strategies in the de-identification of personally identifiable information. It will offer approximately 5.5 hours of lecture material, plus quizzes and supplemental material. CHEO Research Institute will also develop the content for a shorter 1.5-hour course on the legal framework and disclosure risks for personally identifiable information, which is intended to educate custodians of de-identified data. The project will positively impact the protection of privacy rights of a large number of Canadians by creating education materials for the private sector on defensible data anonymization techniques and their privacy obligations.

Project Title: Effects of Informal Online Regulatory Regimes on Privacy
Organization: Brock University
Project Leader: Natasha Tusikov
Location: Ontario
Funding Amount: $19,521.13

Project Description: The goal of this project is to examine the potential effects on Canadians’ privacy of non-legally binding or “informal” regulatory regimes that are undertaken by globally operating Internet firms and online payment providers. Specifically, the project will explore risks to Canadian’s privacy resulting from the involvement of Internet companies in informal regulatory agreements with intellectual property rights holders. The project’s objectives are to explore the following questions:

  • What information from Canadians do intermediaries share with third parties in relation to these informal agreements?
  • What laws and policies govern sharing by intermediaries of personal information with other corporate actors within these informal agreements, and to what extent are intermediaries compliant?

The primary deliverable of this project will be an in-depth research report, which seeks to answer the above-noted questions.  The research findings flowing from the report will presented at 2017 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, as well as other events in Ottawa and Toronto.

Project Title: The Peer Privacy Protectors Project: Innovative Youth-Led Privacy Education
Organization: Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA)
Project Leader: Sukanya Pillay
Location: Ontario
Funding Amount: $49,682.00

Project Description: Youth are vulnerable to privacy risks, and there is a compelling need for improved communication and education tools designed to help them learn about their privacy rights. This project will seek to address that need, using a connected learning approach to engage teen participants in a series of workshops to enhance their knowledge of privacy risks and rights and to develop a guidebook to educate their peers. The project team will also consult with Canadian educators to investigate their perceptions of the key areas for developing tools for privacy education generally, and to obtain informed feedback on the project’s student-developed materials prior to their wider circulation. The project will ultimately lead to the production of a “by youth, for youth” privacy guidebook centered on the OPC’s four strategic privacy priorities, for distribution through the CCLA education program and website.

Project Title: Between Memory and Forgetting: Consumers and Digital Death
Option consommateurs
Project Leader: Maryse Guénette and Alexandre Plourde
Funding Amount:

Project Description: Canadians are among the heaviest Internet users in the world. However, when browsing the Web, they leave behind a considerable quantity of personal information over the course of their lives. In many cases, when a person dies, this digital legacy stays online indefinitely. How much control do consumers have over their digital identities after their deaths? How can survivors, in practice, fulfill the wishes of the deceased? What should be done when the deceased has not expressed any wishes about his/her personal information? How can we find the appropriate balance between the right to be forgotten and digital memory? Option Consommateurs will examine these issues in its research. It will also explore the laws applicable to the management of online personal information after a consumer’s death, analyze the practices of the largest businesses that provide online services in Canada, and characterize the services offered to consumers in relation to their digital deaths. This will make it possible to draw a complete portrait of the issues associated with digital death from the point of view of Canadian consumers and to make recommendations to stakeholders.

Project Title: Cloud Atlas: A Citizen’s Guide to Online Privacy and Surveillance Using IXmaps
Organization: Open Media
Project Leader: Laura Tribe
Location: British Columbia
Funding Amount: $50,000.00

Project Description: OpenMedia will adapt and showcase the extensive work of IXmaps—a previously funded OPC Contributions Program initiative—which maps Internet routing through international jurisdictions by Canadian telecommunications companies, and the profound privacy implications of these practices. A key goal of this project is to generate increased awareness among Canadians on how their Internet use is being tracked by surveillance systems at home and abroad, and the increased role of private sector entities in providing customer data to governments. The project will create a compendium of tools and resources for citizens about what they need to be aware of and how to protect their online privacy. The project will educate Canadians on the privacy implications of Internet routing, and thus shed light on issues related to the legal, social and ethical challenges of privacy online. In the course of this project the user community for IXmaps will be expanded, and as a result its database of traceroutes will also expand, providing a more comprehensive and accurate Canadian “Internet Atlas” that can serve as a resource for privacy researchers and policy specialists.

Project Title: “Protect your Privacy—Online!” Educational Program
Organization: Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) Canada
Project Leader: Marcos Gomez
Location: Ontario
Funding Amount: $48,817.50

Project Description: Vulnerable Canadians are more likely to lack the technical “know-how” to effectively protect their privacy and manage their reputation in the digital world. As a result, this demographic may be at greater risk of compromising their online privacy security. ACORN Canada’s “Protect Your Privacy—Online!” project aims to address this gap in privacy security education by educating vulnerable Canadians on PIPEDA, and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner’s strategic privacy priorities of Economics of personal information, Government surveillance, Reputation and privacy, and The body as information. Drawing extensively from previous OPC-funded projects and the Office’s online resources, this educational program will develop accessible language workshops and an informational booklet targeted at vulnerable Canadians. Three in-class privacy workshops will be developed and delivered, and 8,000 informational handbooks will be distributed to vulnerable Canadians in British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia. ACORN Canada’s “Protect Your Privacy—Online!” project will enhance vulnerable Canadians’ online privacy knowledge, providing participants with the necessary tools to confidently participate in the digital world.

Project Title: Left to their own Devices: Privacy Implications of Wearable Technology in Canadian Workplaces
Organization: Queen’s University, Surveillance Studies Centre
Project Leader: David Lyon and David Murakami Wood
Location: Ontario
Funding Amount: $49,998.00

Project Description: Wearable technologies are rapidly entering Canadian commercial and domestic spheres. Representing the latest iteration of ubiquitous computing and the Internet of Things, wearable technologies refer to a class of devices that incorporate electronics, software, and sensors on and around the body. A surprising variety of wearable technology products and applications exist and continue to be developed for use in workplaces. Some of the emerging trends fueling the adoption of wearable technologies in the workplace include ergonomic sensors for occupational health and safety, biometric sensors for professional athletes, augmented reality headsets for shipping and receiving, and smart ID badges for personnel tracking and remote monitoring. Very little is known, however, about the variety of uses for these technologies, their prospects and the extent to which they fall under existing privacy regimes. This project seeks to address that deficit by highlighting the perspective of data consumers in workplace settings. By gathering more information about what can be sourced from wearable devices and the practices associated with their use and analysis in Canadian workplaces, the project’s aim is to raise awareness about potential privacy issues related to wearables, and thereby improve Canadians’ ability to better exercise meaningful consent and control of their personal information. The main output of the study will be a report on the project findings, including an inventory and assessment of wearable technology in Canada.

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