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Research is Essential to Relevance

Remarks at the Pathways to Privacy Research Symposium organized by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

May 2, 2012
Ottawa, Ontario

Address by Chantal Bernier,
Assistant Privacy Commissioner of Canada

(Check against delivery)

I would like to thank you for having joined us today for the first in a series of Pathways to Privacy symposiums.

I think the day has been very successful. We have fully achieved our four objectives:

  • To showcase research funded by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and Industry Canada;
  • To facilitate dialogue between the people who do the research and those who benefit from it;
  • To enhance the relevance of research results and enable uptake and application;
  • To provide researchers and end-users with an opportunity to form partnerships and network.

I was very pleased to see so many familiar faces, in the audience and on the panels, and to meet new and interesting people as well.

I was also happy to hear about ideas that were new to me.

I would like to thank Patricia Kosseim and her team not only for having suggested the symposium but also for having brought it off so admirably. This gathering was a natural extension of the OPC’s Contributions Program.

And I did see today so many elements that have made the Contributions Program so successful:

  • Promoting knowledge generated by privacy research;
  • Direct connection to the issues of the day;
  • Forum for independent thought;
  • Timely information;
  • Practical solutions;
  • And of course, a showcase for world-class Canadian researchers.

At the OPC, research is very important. Not only is it important in and of itself, but we firmly believe it must inform all our activities—conducting investigations or audits, reaching out to the public to inform them about privacy issues affecting their lives, offering sound advice to Parliament, or answering the hundreds of calls Canadians make every month to our Information Centre.

Research is essential to all public policy making, but it is even more so to supporting an objective as mutable and sensitive to technological, social, political and economic changes as privacy protection. Indeed, research is essential to our relevance.

We had the opportunity today to hear about some of the groundbreaking research that has been funded through the Contributions Program in past years. These projects and others are essential to informing public policy on privacy issues.

I am pleased to be able to give you a brief overview of the projects we are funding in 2012-2013.

We have received 45 proposals this year, and 11 projects were selected for financing.

As you can imagine, selecting which projects to finance was not an easy task, as all proposals had their strong points.

We have chosen projects that touch on our four policy priorities which are based on where we see privacy being most at risk:

  1. identity integrity;
  2. information technology;
  3. genetic information;
  4. public safety.

Project evaluation was made by OPC representatives with the support of an external peer-review panel. The peer-review panel comprised privacy experts from various fields.

This year, in the projects we have selected, there is an emphasis on making the research outcomes accessible, through a variety of approaches—workshops, forums, websites, tools, and other awareness materials will be used by researchers to share the results of their work.

I will describe a few of the projects we are funding this year:

  • In keeping with our strategic priorities, a study of the privacy challenges posed by innovations in cell therapy research.
  • An analysis of the scope of information that private companies voluntarily give law enforcement agencies during cybercrime investigations.
  • And as part of our Privacy for Everyone initiative, a series of media reports and other communications products about protecting your personal information every day aimed at a Francophone community.
  • An interactive tool to help the general public better understand cloud computing and its impact on protecting personal information.
  • An investigation into apps and their risks for users.
  • A report on the positive and negative effects of using information technologies in situations of family violence, sexual violence and criminal harassment.

A complete list of the projects funded by the Contributions Program for 2012-2013 and a summary of each one is available right here at our information booth.

Once again, thank you for accepting our invitation today, and I hope to see you at our next symposium.

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