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Ann Cavoukian on Singularity 1 on 1: We have to protect privacy globally or we protect it nowhere!

This Wednesday I was very privileged to interview Dr. Ann Cavoukian. Dr. Cavoukian is the information and privacy commissioner of the province of Ontario (Canada) as well as the creator and foremost global champion of the privacy by design philosophy. She has been one of the most vocal proponents of privacy and the fact that it doesn’t have to come at the price of security or innovation. And so, I was very happy to visit the privacy commissioner’s office and interview her for Singularity 1 on 1.


During our 45 minute conversation with Dr. Ann Cavoukian we cover a variety of interesting topics such as: why privacy is vital for freedom; her background as an Armenian born in Egypt; her personal goals and motivation; why privacy and security (or technological innovation) is not a zero-sum game; the main responsibilities and legal powers of the privacy commissioner’s office; privacy by design as the proactive/preventative default solution to positive sum outcomes; the seven founding principles of privacy by design; NSA’s PRISM program, surveillance by design and false positives; why metadata is more important and revealing than content; why she believes that we owe a debt of gratitude to people such as Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and Julian Assange; whether enhanced privacy helps or hurts a company’s bottom line; Digital Rights Management (DRM) and open source software; the internet of things and privacy by design; what we can do to fight for and protect our own privacy…

My favorite quotes that I will take away from this conversation with Dr. Cavoukian are:

“Privacy knows no borders: we have to protect privacy globally or we protect it nowhere!”


“Have hope!  […] Challenge the view that privacy is dead! […] Uphold privacy and know that you can have it. Know that we must have it! We must have privacy and freedom – that’s what it means to be human.”

(As always you can listen to or download the audio file above, or scroll down and watch the video interview in full.  If you want to help me produce more episodes please make a donation)


Who is Dr. Ann Cavoukian?

P1060304Dr. Ann Cavoukian is recognized as one of the leading privacy experts in the world. Noted for her seminal work on Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) in 1995, her concept of Privacy by Design seeks to proactively embed privacy into the design specifications of information technology and accountable business practices, thereby achieving the strongest protection possible. In October, 2010, regulators from around the world gathered at the annual assembly of International Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners in Jerusalem, Israel, and unanimously passed a landmark Resolution recognizing Privacy by Design as an essential component of fundamental privacy protection. This was followed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s inclusion of Privacy by Design as one of its three recommended practices for protecting online privacy – a major validation of its significance.

An avowed believer in the role that technology can play in the protection of privacy, Dr. Cavoukian’s leadership has seen her office develop a number of tools and procedures to ensure that privacy is strongly protected, not only in Canada, but around the world. She has been involved in numerous international committees focused on privacy, security, technology and business, and endeavours to focus on strengthening consumer confidence and trust in emerging technology applications.

Dr. Cavoukian serves as the Chair of the Identity, Privacy and Security Institute at the University of Toronto, Canada. She is also a member of several Boards including, the European Biometrics Forum, Future of Privacy Forum, RIM Council, and has been conferred as a Distinguished Fellow of the Ponemon Institute. Dr. Cavoukian was honoured with the prestigious Kristian Beckman Award in 2011 for her pioneering work on Privacy by Design and privacy protection in modern international environments. In the same year, Dr. Cavoukian was also named by Intelligent Utility Magazine as one of the Top 11 Movers and Shakers for the Global Smart Grid industry, received the SC Canada Privacy Professional of the Year Award and was honoured by the University of Alberta Information Access and Protection of Privacy Program for her positive contribution to the field of privacy.

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  • dani pettas

    Awesome interview.

  • Happy that you enjoyed it Dani!

  • Pingback: Joseph Carvalko on Singularity 1 on 1: Have Confidence To Reach Beyond!()

  • Manu

    The irony is:
    We are actually discussing “privacy” issues, because the NSA has a problem:
    Not even secret services can keep their services secret anymore…

    Computer networks threaten secrecy… not necessarily “privacy”… only if we
    cling to secrecy as as an asset that we have to preserve in order to “protect privacy”.

    I don’t think so.
    I think that we don’t need to define “privacy” via “secrecy”…
    “Privacy” can be based upon respect, trust, solidarity, conscience and social responsibility.

    The more we can know about each other, the better we can make it obvious when people intrusively interfere with our affairs. The more openly and transparent we communicate, the less we can intervene in the affairs of others without embarrassing ourselves.

    What do we define as “privacy”?
    Is “privacy” the sum of everything we can do and decide in secrecy and seclusion?

    Is “privacy” defined by what we can hide?

    If so… — if “privacy” equals our ability to hide from each other then chances are bad for “privacy” to prevail, anyway.

    we’d only define “privacy” by the borders/ the walls and gates that we
    manage to build around our worlds, then we would be doomed to a frantic
    arms race against the elements in society that would really threaten our
    “rights” and “freedoms” by trespassing these borders, walls and gates.

    all, we’d have to implement a massive suppressive global police
    apparatus, to grant a “right for privacy” via “information and privacy

    That can’t be a plausible way to protect social freedom.

    I’m alarmed by the highlighted statement:

    “Privacy knows no borders: we have to protect privacy globally or we protect it nowhere!”

    we could manage protect “privacy” via law and order, we would already
    live in a totalitarian system with a world police and global government.

    Internet is actually an experiment how far people can get along without
    restrictive regulation. The Internet is still an open experiment of

    I know one thing for sure:

    I don’t want global Internet law or world police.

    And I can’t really believe in feasible and simple technical solutions that would promise total “privacy protection”…

    Every block, lock or encryption technology complicates data exchange, network sharing and web communication.

    After all:

    Data protection by encryption is a costly and complicated arms-race.

    discussion at “scientific transhumanism” (facebook)

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