Quayside, a proposed “smart city” on Toronto’s waterfront,[i] has garnered a lot of attention about big data initiatives relative to privacy and data governance. Smart city proposals underscore the importance of balancing the benefits of data analytics with privacy rights. A reactive, complaints-based model has been shown to be inadequate to generate the necessary trust and transparency to meet privacy concerns. At the same time, certain privacy principles, such as individual consent, do not necessarily translate to certain smart city initiatives.
Smart city initiatives provide an opportunity for public engagement about data governance and privacy. This is a welcome opportunity. Public discourse about privacy happens too often after the roll out of big data ventures and, worse yet, after high profile “breaches of trust” that have challenged confidence in data governance. Quayside allows for both “privacy by design” principles to be applied to a new venture and also for a broader public discourse on privacy and big data before the initiative proceeds. The recent announcement of both a federal Digital Charter and other municipal and provincial reviews into data strategies will hopefully provide a robust opportunity for such public discourse and, in the process, arrive at a refreshed big data governance framework that fosters innovation while also increasing public trust and confidence in adherence to privacy concerns.