Contributions Program – Research funded by the OPC

2009-2010 Contributions Program

Program Summary

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s (OPC) Contributions Program, which was established in 2004, provides funding for cutting-edge privacy research and public education and outreach initiatives in Canada.

This backgrounder provides information to organizations interested in applying for funding for research projects or public education and outreach initiatives.  All funding proposals will be evaluated by the OPC on the basis of merit.

1.  Call for Research Proposals—the OPC’s Four Priority Areas

This year the Office is interested in receiving research proposals focusing on four priority areas: 1) national security, 2) identity integrity and protection, 3) information technology, and 4) genetic privacy.  However, we will also consider requests to fund research on issues that fall outside these areas.

Priority 1:  National Security

The OPC has for the past few years been particularly concerned with the gradual erosion of privacy rights in the post 9-11 national security environment.  There are encouraging signs that some rethinking is taking place with regards to privacy invasive measures and government programs.  Nevertheless, the fact remains that national security initiatives, such as the Anti-terrorism Act and travel-related security programs like the “no-fly list” have undermined the privacy rights we have until recently taken for granted. 

We would be interested in funding cutting-edge research on national security touching on the issues such as:

  • Oversight mechanisms for national security agencies, especially as it relates to the collection, use and disclosure of personal information;
  • Electronic communications interception by law enforcement and national security agencies;
  • The impact of government travel-related security programs (e.g. the “no-fly list”);
  • Government-to-government information exchanges, both nationally and internationally;
  • The impact of government security measures on the financial privacy of Canadians;
  • The prevalence of “function creep” in new national security programs (e.g. whether initially limited national security programs have a tendency to expand over time, to the detriment of privacy).
Priority 2:  Identity Integrity and Protection

Identity theft is a major concern for Canadians and for our Office.  A fundamental tenet of privacy is that individuals should have the ability to control when and how their personal information is collected, who collects their personal information, and how this information is used and disclosed.  Victims of identity theft lose control over their personal information.

We would be interested in funding research on issues such as:

  • The protection of privacy through the “de-identification” of personal data;
  • The privacy risks associated with the “re-identification” of personal data;
  • Identity theft—how to prevent it and fight it.
Priority 3:  Information Technology

Chief among the new challenges to privacy is the impact of emerging information technologies, which ironically can both threaten Canadians’ privacy as well as enhance it. 

For instance, miniature devices such as radio frequency identification (RFID) technologies and nanotechnologies, will fundamentally transform how businesses manage their supply chains, as electronic tags now allow goods and products—and the people who have them in their possession—to be monitored, often from a considerable distance.

The OPC would be particularly interested in funding research addressing the following issues:

  • Location-based technologies—e.g. cell-phone locating, mobile advertising, and geospatial technologies such as global positioning systems and earth-mapping;
  • The “Internet of things”—e.g. radio frequency identification technologies (RFIDs), sensor technologies and smart technologies;
  • Nanotechnology and the danger of ubiquitous surveillance;
  • Web 2.0 and its impact on privacy—e.g. social networking, mashups and wikis;
  • The privacy and security implications of cloud computing;
  • Protecting the privacy of children and youth on-line.
Priority 4:  Genetic privacy & biobanking

If ever there was a field of activity where continuous developments are challenging privacy, it is the area of genetic privacy and biobanking.  The OPC is keenly interested in funding ground breaking research in this area.  Biobanks are a collection of physical specimens from which DNA or the data from DNA samples can be derived, or both.  They include a wide range of collections, such as pathology samples, newborn baby blood samples, samples sent to laboratories for testing, and forensic investigation samples.

We would be interested in funding research on issues such as:

  • The multiplication of biobanks—in Canada and elsewhere—and its implications from a privacy perspective;
  • How information in biobanks can distilled or manipulated to reveal personal information;
  • The extent to which the collection, use and disclosure of DNA samples and biobank-derived information is open-ended;
  • Whether any clear privacy protection norms are being applied to how personal information is treated in biobanks.

2.  Call for Public Education & Outreach Proposals

The OPC is calling for widespread funding proposals for the organization of public education and awareness raising initiatives.  Public education is one of the Office’s key mandates.  The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) requires the Privacy Commissioner to promote—by any means that the Commissioner considers appropriate—the purposes of the Act.

We would be interested in receiving funding proposals for:

  • The organization of workshops targeted to specific audiences, such as industry, trade and consumer groups, aimed at raising awareness and understanding of Canada’s privacy protection framework;
  • The organization of conferences and symposiums that would bring together privacy stakeholders and experts from Canada and abroad to discuss emerging challenges and opportunities in personal data protection;
  • The development of informational material on privacy promotion and protection, notably on-line informational material.

Public education and awareness raising proposals need not be focused on the four research priority areas identified above.  All proposals touching on any area related to privacy promotion and personal information protection will be considered for funding and assessed on the basis of merit.

3.  How to Submit an Application

The deadline for receipt of applications is January 30, 2009 for fiscal year 2009-2010.

Potential applicants are encouraged to consult the “Applicant’s Guide,” which is designed to help them prepare an application for funding under the Contributions Program. In particular, specific instructions for completing the application form as well as information about the assessment process are provided.

Please forward your application to the following address:

Elizabeth Denham
Assistant Privacy Commissioner
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
112 Kent Street
Place de Ville, Tower B, 3rd Floor
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1H3
Telephone: (613) 944-5599
Fax: (613) 995-1139

All information requested in the Guide and Application Form must be received by the Office before a request is considered complete.

Only complete applications received at the above noted coordinates on or before the Program deadline will be considered.

Applications are deemed to have been received by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada on the date they are post-marked; or delivered to a messenger or specialized courier agency; or on the day they are sent by fax or e-mail.

It is recommended that applicants verify with our Office to ensure that delivery of their applications has been received by us.

For more information, consult the following documents:

NOTE: These forms have been revised for you to be able to fill them out electronically or by hand. However, we do not accept applications by e-mail. Please complete, print and sign the forms before mailing them.

4.  Questions

For further information on the Contributions Program and how to apply, communicate with:

François Cadieux
Senior Research Analyst
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Tel.: (613) 947-3090

Media contact:

Heather Ormerod
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Tel: (613) 995-1048