2012 Pathways to Privacy Research Symposium: Privacy for Everyone

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Event Summary

On May 2, 2012, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) hosted its first Pathways to Privacy Research Symposium at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Over 130 participants representing a wide variety of interests, including academia, government, non-profit organizations, and privacy regulators, attended the full-day event, which showcased privacy-related research and public education projects funded by the OPC’s Contributions Program and other funders.

The theme for the symposium was Privacy for Everyone and topics included: the changing landscape for youth, reaching diverse populations, cultural perspective on privacy, and frontiers of identification and surveillance among different populations. There were two keynote speakers and four panels, which featured presentations from funding recipients on research and outreach projects.

The symposium was held to increase awareness of the outcomes of privacy research and public education projects in Canada. In particular, the symposium aimed to facilitate a dialogue between the people who do research and those who apply it, so that more people can use and benefit from this work. It also gave researchers an opportunity to network and build partnerships to support them in the work they do.

The event was organized with the assistance of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Office of Consumer Affairs of Industry Canada. 

Opening Remarks

Opening remarks were delivered by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada Jennifer Stoddart and Patricia Kosseim, Senior General Counsel and Director General, Legal Services, Policy and Research Branch, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Opening Keynote

The morning keynote was delivered by Valerie Steeves, Associate Professor, Department of Criminology, University of Ottawa on “The ‘eGirls’ Project”. Professor Steeves discussed the findings of her research, which identifies the way scholars and policymakers talk about girls and technology, and asks girls if these discourses reflect their experiences on social networking sites. 

Panel 1: The Changing Landscape for Youth

This panel examined how children navigate through online spaces and investigated their attitudes and opinions regarding privacy. The panel showcased research that works through some of the privacy challenges that children encounter and puts forth novel solutions to complex issues such as consent amongst children.

The panel was moderated by Daphne Guerrero, Head, Public Education and Outreach, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. The panellists were:

Panel 1: The Changing Landscape for Youth
Jane Tallim, Media Awareness Network, on “Young Canadians in a Wired World – Phase III” Project summary
Dr. Sara Grimes, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, on “Deconstructing the Cyberchild: Children’s Online Play at the Intersection of Policy, Technology and Cultural Industries” Project summary
John Lawford, Counsel, Public Interest Advocacy Centre, on “All in the Data Family? Databases, Children and Profiling” Project summary

Panel 2: Reaching Diverse Populations

This panel examined successful strategies adopted by civil society groups to educate various populations on how to best protect their privacy and personal information. In particular, it examined the unique challenges faced by youth, seniors and the deaf to protect their privacy, and reviewed best practices on how to educate these groups with regards to their rights under the law.

The panel was moderated by Michael Jenkin, Director General, Office of Consumer Affairs, Industry Canada. The panellists were:

Panel 2: Reaching Diverse Populations
Linda Girard, Director General, Association sur l’Accès et la Protection de l’Information (AAPI), on  “Internet Portal on Privacy Protection” and “A Teaching and Learning Kit for Teachers and Students” Project summary
James Roots, Executive Director, Canadian Association for the Deaf, on “Understanding Your Privacy Rights: The PIPEDA in Signs” Project summary
Claire Harvey, Head of Media Relations, Options Consommateurs, on “Awareness Workshop on Identity Theft and Seniors – Prevention is Better than a Cure” Project summary

Afternoon Keynote

The afternoon keynote was delivered by Dr. Lesley Jacobs, Director, York Centre for Public Policy and Law, York University. Dr. Jacobs discussed his research project “Privacy Rights Mobilization among Marginalized Groups: Fulfilling the Mandate of PIPEDA”

Panel 3: Cultural Perspectives on Privacy

This panel explored the impact that cultural perspectives can have on privacy. Panellists presented research on a variety of issues, including whether the use of biometric technology represents an invasive form of social control; raising awareness about privacy rights and obligations through a media campaign; and how electronic health record initiatives affect First Nation approaches to privacy.

The panel was moderated by Gisèle Yasmeen, Vice-President, Research, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The panellists were:

Panel 3: Cultural Perspectives on Privacy
Dr. Jens Weber, Professor, Department of Computer Science and Adjunct Professor, School of Health Information Science, University of Victoria, on “First Nations Privacy and Electronic Health Records systems” Project summary
Tonia Mori, Director General, CHOQ-FM, on “Awareness Campaign in Francophone Communities on the Protection of Personal Information and Privacy” Project summary
Mirjana Mandaric, Master of Arts Immigration and Settlement Studies, Ryerson University, on “Biometrics: Constructing 'Ideal' Subjects and 'Aliens' at the Canada-U.S. Border" Project summary

Panel 4: Frontiers of Surveillance and Identification among Different Populations

Surveillance is rapidly becoming the dominant organizing principle of our late modern world. Given growing computer-dependence and reliance on personal data collection and processing by a variety of institutions, and heightened public concern about security, surveillance is now experienced as an everyday reality. This panel addressed the impact of surveillance on the privacy of individuals, as well as the impact of technologies with identification capabilities (e.g. RFID technologies or biometrics).

The panel was moderated by Sue O’Sullivan, Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime. The panellists were:

Panel 4: Frontiers of Surveillance and Identification among Different Populations
Dr. Ian Kerr, Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law & Technology at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, on “Building Better Humans: Health, Enhancements and Human Rights” Project summary
Dr. David Lyon, Queen's Research Chair in Surveillance Studies, on “The New Transparency Project Project summary
Cynthia Fraser, Consultant on International Technology Safety, National Network to End Domestic Violence, on "The Safety Net Project and the Impacts of Surveillance and Identification on Victims of Abuse” Project summary

Closing remarks

The Assistant Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Chantal Bernier, made closing comments about the Symposium and the information that was presented. She also announced that the Office had awarded $500,000 in funding for privacy research under its 2012-13 Contributions Program and briefly discussed some of the new projects that had received funding.

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