TORONTO — Former Ontario privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian will be venturing into new territory Thursday evening when she asks guests at a posh Toronto ballroom for several hundred thousand dollars to fund her passion.
Cavoukian is seeking backers to help her promote her internationally recognized "privacy by design" concept, which advocates embedding protections into computer code, architecture and operations from the start to prevent harms from ever arising.
"We've had great success with this," Cavoukian says.
Intel, Telus and Microsoft are just some of the companies that she has advised.
Now Cavoukian wants to spread the message so that even small and mid-sized companies recognize the value of making privacy and security a core component of their products and services.
But she admits that it will be a "huge challenge" to get privacy by design accepted universally, something she thinks will be necessary with advances in artificial intelligence, quantum computing and the Internet of Things.
"The people who are developing IoT, they're just running out the door with all [these] exciting connected devices. They're not even thinking about privacy and security," Cavoukian says.
"Changing that perception is a huge challenge. . . . That's my personal goal, to change that."
To that end, Cavoukian has created a new global council focused on privacy by design. Its board includes Telus chief executive Darren Entwistle, SecureKey CEO Greg Wolfond, and Michael Chertoff, who was U.S. secretary of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009.
Cavoukian — who is an expert-in-residence at Ryerson University in Toronto — says the not-for-profit group will use its inaugural dinner Thursday to raise money for research into the next level of privacy protections.
"I don't know how much money we'd need," Cavoukian admits. "I'm hoping a couple hundred thousand dollars, for example, to put out calls for research."
Cavoukian says the dinner at the ornate Arcadian Court — built in 1929 atop the Simpson's Tower, just steps from Toronto's financial district — has sold tables to businesses with an interest in cybersecurity and privacy.
Wendy Mee, a partner at the Toronto office of Blakes, says the law firm did pro bono legal work to set up Cavoukian's International Council on Global Privacy and Security by Design as a not-for-profit.
"I think privacy and cybersecurity issues are a big concern across our client base, in a lot of different industries," Mee said.
She also Cavoukian has a "highly regarded" international reputation.
David Hoffman, chief privacy officer for Intel Corp., a long-time collaborator with Cavoukian, says she has had a huge influence — not only with the tech sector, but also with privacy regulators around the world.
"She's a visionary and she has the right relationships with the other people who can be impactful to get things moving. She single-handedly changes the conversation about how things are done."
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