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Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario

By: Kate Robertson

In the last 20 years, Ann Cavoukian, PhD, has been an advocate for privacy protection in the private and public sector. And it doesn’t look as if she will be slowing down any time soon.

As Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, Dr. Cavoukian is the first to be appointed for a third term in the position, and will continue in the role until 2014. She is one of the world’s leading experts in privacy, and is particularly interested in how technology can help, rather than harm, data protection and privacy. The Commissioner works independently of the governing party to promote a transparent and forthcoming government and to ensure that the private worlds of Ontarians are protected. In addition, Dr. Cavoukian advises businesses and organizations all over the world on how to do the same for their clients, staff, users or data.

In the 1990s, as technology became increasingly entrenched in the world’s personal, day-to-day, and business practices in the 1990s, Dr. Cavoukian recognized that privacy could be at risk. But rather than shying away from the complexity and challenges that technology posed toward privacy, she embraced it.

The result was the award-winning Privacy by Design, a philosophy that advocates for a proactive approach where privacy is embedded into the design of the technology itself. The move to connected online data networks and communication technologies can be viewed as a threat to privacy, or it can be used to protect it, according to Dr. Cavoukian. And rather than relying on legislation or regulation to protect the privacy of clients or users, Dr. Cavoukian’s ground-breaking work advises businesses and the public sector to instead protect clients or data by using privacy-enhancing technologies without sacrificing security or efficiency.

This past June, the International Federation for Information Processing awarded Dr. Cavoukian with the prestigious Kristian Beckman Award for Privacy by Design and its contribution to the development of information security on an international level. Shortly after, the University of Alberta’s Information Access and Protection of Privacy Program for her work in the field, and she was also given the SC Canada Privacy Professional of the Year Award. In total, Dr. Cavoukian has earned more than 10 notable awards throughout her career, including honours from the Ontario Bar Association, the IEEE and the Ontario Psychological Association. In 2008, she won the Privacy Hero Leadership Award from WiredSafety.

Dr. Cavoukian holds a PhD and an MA in Psychology from the University of Toronto and has co-authored two trailblazing books in the field of security and privacy. Both publications, “The Privacy Payoff: How Successful Businesses Build and Customer Trust” examine the risks businesses and individuals take when they do not protect privacy. She is chair of the University of Toronto’s Identity, Privacy and Security Institute, and has sat on 12 boards, including the International Biometric Advisory Council, the European Biometrics Forum and the IBM Privacy Management Council.

Dr. Cavoukian is also very well known for public speaking. In addition to being part of the Deloitte Women of Influence Luncheon Series in 2006, she was recognized as the IABC All-Star Speaker by the International Association of Business Communicators that same year.