Information Technology Services (ITS)

Data Privacy Day webinar panel sparks University-wide discussion

Published on: February 10, 2021

screenshot of webinar panel presenters

From left to right (clockwise): Andrew Petersen, Ashley Langille, Ron Deibert, Rafael Eskenazi.

More than 130 University of Toronto (U of T) staff, faculty and students gathered for a virtual panel discussion as part of the Information Security division’s annual Data Privacy Day campaign on Jan. 28.

The panelists’ conversation focused on technology’s growing impact on privacy and the importance of protecting personal information. The session was moderated by Rafael Eskenazi, Director of Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Office via Microsoft Teams Live Events. The three featured panelists were: Ron Deibert, founder and director of the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, Ashley Langille, information privacy analyst at Information Security and Andrew Petersen, associate professor in the Department of Mathematical and Computational Sciences.

“The Data Privacy Day webinar panel provided a great opportunity to hear questions and concerns from our community regarding their privacy and the University’s role in mitigating related threats,” says Deyves Fonseca, associate director, Information Security Operations. “It was exciting to watch our expert panelists provide real-time answers about the University’s ongoing projects and explaining their behind-the-scenes efforts.”

The 75-minute discussion included 10 questions from the moderator and 26 questions from the audience.

Session highlights were:

Privacy in remote working

When asked about privacy threats that remote work has introduced, Deibert explained that the average consent model needs work. He described how many platforms use an opt-out model or require you to consent to invasive and problematic terms, such as allowing your retinas to be read. On solutions for University settings, he suggested: “we must push for ways in which we can audit the software that we’re relying on to understand what’s going on beneath the surface and make those findings and risks transparent.”

Student privacy in educational tools

Discussing educational data mining, Petersen advocated that a better understanding of students and the settings in which they learn helps us to improve the tools they rely on. “Consent is tricky in this space,” he said. “The consent for use of your data is often embedded in the terms of use. We have to consider if we’re properly asking and using their consent.”

Information Security efforts

Langille highlighted the ways in which her team assesses compliance and address uncertain disclosures. With regards to the latter, she explained that some issues can’t be stopped all-together, but their job is to keep the community informed. “We can notify users ahead of time and provide guidance to prepare their environments,” she said. It is important for everyone to assess their risks and reach out to faculty members to advise on mitigation, Langille added.

To stay informed of upcoming Information Technology Services (ITS) events, check out the ITS events calendar.


Raffle winners

The webinar also included a raffle contest in which three attendees who participated in the Q&A session were randomly selected to win a $20 Amazon gift card each.

Congratulations winners:

  • Jeananne Robertson
  • Kathy Chung
  • Melissa Siah