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On the Identity Trail: Student Salon
Anonymity, Identity and the Prospect of Privacy
March 3 2005
Technology law students and students from other disciplines from across Canada met on the morning of March 3, 2005 at the Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, to exchange ideas, to present their research, and to consider questions raised by the keynote speaker, Professor Emeritus, M.I.T., Gary Marx
The first panel comprised 3 students from the Centre for Innovation Law and Policy at the University of Toronto, who presented their research Implementing PIPEDA: A Review of Internet Privacy Statements and On-line Practices, which is funded by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
Rajen Akalu described his evaluation of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) from the perspective of its impact on changing expectations of privacy including consumer awareness of the Act. His research focuses on the telecommunications, banking, airline and retail industries and includes evaluating the results of a questionnaire sent to company privacy officers.
Barbara Bressoles described her research on the compliance of the airline industry with PIPEDA. To date she has found that there is not uniform compliance and that because PIPEDA lacks enforcement provisions there is also a lack of incentive to comply. To remedy some of these and other deficiencies, Ms. Bressoles suggested that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada conduct audits for PIPEDA compliance and educate the public about the provisions of the Act.
Sapna Mahboobani presented her research into the implementation of PIPEDA in Canada's banking sector. Ms. Mahboobani reviewed the privacy policies of two chartered banks and found that while their privacy policies are readily accessible they contain too much detail and are written in complex language, consequently, they are of questionable utility. She also noted that the policies do not specify what personal information is being collected. Ms. Mahboobani also questioned whether PIPEDA applies to personal information that is transferred to other countries.
The second panel comprised 3 students, who presented on their research as members of the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, and On the Identity Trail project.
The first speaker was Catherine Thompson of the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. The focus of her talk was the development of an access to information manual in coordination with the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner's office. The aim of the manual is to enable and to empower citizens to access personal information about them that is held by the private and public sector. The manual covers all privacy legislation in Canada at federal, provincial and municipal levels.
Mohamed Layouni, a Ph.D. candidate with the Quantum and Crypto Information Lab at McGill University, presented a paper on privacy preserving technologies, which took as its premise that security can be achieved without surveillance through the use of three building blocks: private matching and set intersection, private similarity search and private information retrieval. Private matching and set intersection allows two sets of data to be compared but only reveals the identity of a person who appears on both lists, which avoids excessive, privacy invasive searches that would reveal the identities of numerous persons. Private similarity search also aims to avoid excessive searches in situations where a close match is being sought (for example, closes genetic match). Private information retrieval aims to protect information that could otherwise be revealing about a database query itself.
On the Identity Trail panel closed with a presentation by Alex Cameron, an LL.D. candidate with the Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, on copyright and privacy and the specific issues associated with digital rights management (DRM). Cameron noted that while DRM technologies protect copyright interests, they are also being used to extend owner interests and to prevent or curtail otherwise legal uses of copyrighted works (for example, private/scholarly use or fair comment). He also discussed the privacy implications of DRM technology and in particular the surveillance of the use of copyrighted works.
The Student Salon concluded with a lively keynote address by renowned sociologist, Gary Marx who provoked thought and discussion on current, projected and imagined privacy invasive technologies.
Photography courtesy of Pyrik Photography © 2005