Your Privacy and Big Data

While the use of big data can drive innovation and result in the development of better public programs and services, the privacy of Ontarians must also be protected. With proper planning and education, big data can be used by governments and institutions in a privacy protective way.

The IPC works closely with government institutions to provide guidance on privacy best practices and compliance in big data projects.


WHAT IS BIG DATA?

In general, when the term ‘big data’ is used, it is referring to data collections that cannot be easily managed or understood using traditional means because of the size, irregularity or complexity of the data. It is often defined by three ‘V’s:

  • Volume – there is so much data and so many data points that it can be difficult to sift through and comprehend
  • Velocity – data is generated and added rapidly to the collection and can be updated in real time
  • Variety – the data included in the collection can have many different forms and come from many different sources.


WHAT IS BIG DATA ANALYTICS?

Big data analytics is the use of various methods and tools to generate insights from data collections. Policy-makers can use these tools to identify patterns and connections, automate decision making or predict the results of a course of action.


HOW DOES BIG DATA AFFECT PRIVACY?

Big data can, and often does, include personal information, which is any recorded information about an identifiable person, such as their name, address, opinions or medical history.

Big data can offer great promise and opportunity in terms of the development of more efficient and effective government programs, but it can also present serious privacy challenges, including the unintended identification of individuals, inaccurate results or predictions, the use of biased data and unauthorized secondary uses of personal information.

Under Ontario’s privacy laws, government institutions must have safeguards in place to ensure that your personal information is appropriately collected, used, retained and disclosed.


WHAT RIGHTS DO I HAVE UNDER ONTARIO’S PRIVACY LAWS?

Privacy is a fundamental right of every Ontarian. Ontario public institutions are required by law to protect your personal information, and to follow strict rules when collecting, using and disclosing your personal information.

If you have any questions about what personal information a government institution is collecting or how it is being used, consult the institution’s website or contact the institution for more information.