Big Data Analytics, Privacy Can Coexist, Privacy by Design Leader Cavoukian Says

By Peter Menyasz  

June 10 —Organizations can develop innovative new uses for big data analytics and at the same time protect personal information, according to a white paper released June 10 by Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian.

“We do not have to sacrifice privacy or shackle innovation for the sake of Big Data analytics,” Cavoukian, who is widely acknowledged as one of the founders of the privacy by design approach, said in a statement accompanying release of the white paper. “It is indeed possible to have both Big Data and Big Privacy,” she said.

Careful Planning Urged

Careful advance planning and use of privacy by design principles can produce a win-win situation in which privacy inspires innovation, according to the white paper written by Cavoukian with Beth Dewitt and David Stewart of worldwide data analytics and privacy consultant Deloitte LLP.

Advances in data analytics and the growing size of data sets pose a risk of creating linkages between nonidentifiable pieces of information that could enable the identification of individuals and their lifestyles and habits, the report said.

But suggestions that privacy expectations must be reduced in a big data environment or that privacy considerations must limit innovation are based on a “dated, zero-sum mindset” that sacrifices one interest for another, when in fact a positive-sum solution is needed to build consumer trust in innovative technologies, it said.

The white paper highlights three strategies to deploy big data innovations without harming privacy:

  •  minimizing data collection and storage to eliminate privacy risk at the earliest stage of the data life cycle;
  •  de-identifying information to strip data sets of all information that could be used to identify individuals; and
  • including user access controls to give users powers to grant or deny specific requests to obtain or use information.
  • “Every two days, we create as much new data as we had created between the dawn of civilization and 2003,” Cavoukian said in an executive summary to the report.

    To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Menyasz in Ottawa at

    To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald G. Aplin at

    The white paper, “Achieving Big Data Innovation Without Compromising Privacy,” is available at

    The executive summary to the white paper is available at