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The control of the personal data ecosystem belongs to the individual


A recent release from the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario on the Personal Data Ecosystem praises organizations taking initiatives to integrate the socio-economic benefits of personal information while maintaining privacy and confidentiality. The Commissioner, Dr. Cavoukian, also co-authored a paper with researchers from the United States and the United Kingdom that delineates the systems that drive the PDE, and how these systems aim to address the specific challenges that privacy protection demands.

What is the Personal Data Ecosystem?

The PDE is a term used to describe the network of data that exists correlating to an individual’s personal information. Anyone who exists online has a PDE, whether or not they are familiar with the term or considered the concept. The term is often used in conjunction with user-centric discussions, which seek to move away from the way data has been collected and used in the recent past. In the last 10 years or so, PDE information has largely been hoarded by private companies with the interest of marketing to individuals and to drive sales. The PDE model is one that marries two previously antimonious ideas: interconnected data from various sources within a deidentifying sphere of encryption.

The idea is to give individual users control of their own data, where it goes, and how it is used while simultaneous allowing that data to be linked and connected to one’s other data online. Commissioner Cavoukian supports these initiatives and is enthusiastic about the opportunities they present to individual users as well as for organizations. Following a period of reduced trust of companies’ use of personal information, PDEs may allow for a renewed faith by consumers to share their information, as the information will be controlled by those consumers, rather than by the companies.

New products are emerging to provide framework for PDEs, and are receiving great praise from the Commissioner for their use of creativity and innovation. Personal Data Vaults (PDVs) provide a single location where data is stored, and may be made available selectively to online sources. Using these PDVs is secure, accurate, and verified, based on the goal of eliminating time-wasting and error.

Currently, PDEs and PDVs are relatively new, and certainly hot topics. The products are destined to evolve continuously as our use of online resources changes. Accordingly, policies will be expected to change to reflect the shift from organizational control of personal information to user-based control of personal information, within the government as well as within private companies.

We’ll be sure to follow these changes and keep you updated as the future of the PDE network unfolds.

Lauren Bride
First Reference Internal Controls Editor

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Lauren Bride

Writer and editor at Hudson's Bay
Lauren Bride, B.A. (English Literature / Philosophy) is a writer, copywriter, and editor, working in both fiction and nonfiction. She has done extensive writing and editing for commercial, private, and government clients, as well as storyediting and fiction publication. Lauren also volunteers with the not for profit group NABORS (Toronto). Read more
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