This article, and Showey’s interview with Ann Cavoukian, appeared in Maclean’s Magazine in 2014.
Last month eight of the largest technology firms in the U.S., including Google and Apple, sent an open letter to President Obama calling for an overhaul of U.S. privacy laws. And even though Obama has promised new limits on the National Security Agency, revelations about the scale of the governmentâ€™s domestic snooping programs and continued anxiety about over-sharing on social media have focussed a spotlight on privacy issues. For the entrepreneurially-minded, at least, it all adds up to one thing: opportunity.
Few people know more about privacyâ€”and the expanding market for privacy expertsâ€”than Dr. Ann Cavoukian, the information and privacy commissioner for Ontario and an author of two books on privacy targeted at businesses and consumers. In 2013, she made headlines for lambasting top staff in former premier Dalton McGuintyâ€™s office for deleting emails.
Unlike Scott McNealy, the former CEO of Sun Microsystems, who famously proclaimed, â€œYou have zero privacy anyway. Get over it,â€ Cavoukian believes privacy and profit can co-exist. â€œThereâ€™s a misconception that privacy issues are purely legal or regulatory in nature,â€ she says. â€œThis is just not true. I meet regularly with companies like Google and Oracle, with people like Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair … so that preventative, proactive privacy policies can be implemented.â€
But itâ€™s a complex new world for many businesses and organizations, meaning employees who have the right skills are going to be in high demand. In an interview, Cavoukian named five of the hottest areas right now for job seekers in the sector:
1. Big Data: Enterprises that manage medical and financial records need to keep up with solutions for keeping data private. Just last month retailer Target became embroiled in a scandal involving a massive theft of customer credit card information. Information security teams need data security architects to uncover vulnerabilities before they are exploited.
2. Privacy regulators: These donâ€™t have to be government watchdog types. â€œCompanies are more and more interested in issues of privacy all the time,â€ she says. â€œMany companies have privacy â€˜peopleâ€™.â€ The Toronto Transit Commission has someone. So do many police departments, where staff are tasked with reviewing policies on the use of CCTV cameras in public areas.
3. Encryption: For the technically minded, finding new ways to encode and protect messages promises to be a major growth area. Cavoukian says she is a fan homomorphic encryption, a new method that allows for calculations to be performed on data while it is still encrypted, making it a promising technology for delivering new cloud services.
4. De-identification: This developing field entails stripping personal information from data and is a growing concern for businesses that involve biometrics (e.g. fingerprints and photographs). Cavoukian is currently in talks with the European Union about strategies for separating biometric information from personal identifiers like names, IP addresses and social security numbers. â€œDe-identification methods are on the very cutting edge of technology,â€ she says. â€œThere is abundant room for entrepreneurial-minded students to ride the crest.â€
5. App development: Despite an explosion in the number of apps for devices like tablets and smartphones, this remains an untapped area in the privacy sphere. â€œWhere are the apps for privacy?â€ she says. â€œThere is huge room for growth in this area.â€
If all else fails, Cavoukian recommends job seekers and employees take initiative. â€œIf the company you are working for has not yet implemented privacy initiatives, create a niche for yourself. If youâ€™re involved in data management or data collection, point out the benefits of emphasizing privacy. You build a relationship of trust with your clients. You avoid potential lawsuits. Itâ€™s the smart way to go.â€