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A robot called Pepper is positioned near an entrance to a Microsoft Store in Boston on March 21, 2019.Steven Senne/The Associated Press

Ann Cavoukian is executive director of the Global Privacy and Security by Design Centre and the former three-term information and privacy commissioner of Ontario.

A few decades ago, artificial intelligence wasn’t nearly as pervasive and neither were the risks that come with it. Fast forward to today, and both the potential and the pitfalls of this incredible technology are glaringly obvious. It is no wonder the world has become consumed with finding a solution that is able to mitigate the risks of using data, while allowing for benefits to be realized in a sustainable way as technology evolves.

That is why the Privacy by Design principles, which I first began developing in the nineties as the way forward, are essential. Newly codified by the International Organization for Standardization, this approach is now the international standard for data privacy management and protection.

The Privacy by Design principles, or ISO 31700-1, have the power to guide us toward a future where innovation does not slow down and privacy isn’t an afterthought. Rather, they ensure that privacy is ingrained in the DNA of technology and built into every layer – right from the beginning, at the design stage.

While local laws may differ from country to country, principles are borderless. Adhering to this internationally-recognized standard will be the only way that our global community can set itself up for a future that leverages data to its fullest potential, in a transparent and responsible way.

The current age has sometimes been accurately referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, where technology, connectivity, analytics and automation inform everything we do in business and at home. But there’s one caveat: Such a transformation cannot be successful if it comes at the expense of our data privacy.

This digital revolution certainly offers the promise of convenience, and, more importantly, the opportunity to use technology to do social good. But with the infinite volume of data we share with companies (sometimes even unknowingly), there are understandable concerns around how it will be managed and respected.

Canadians can be proud that the first program certified in ISO 31700-1 in the world is TELUS’s Data for Good program. It serves as a global example for business, industry and government on how to ensure that data is respected at every stage of innovation.

The groundbreaking program gives researchers access to high-quality, strongly de-identified and aggregated datasets to address societal issues, such as developing efficient transportation systems in response to natural disasters, or supporting evidence-based environmental sustainability initiatives.

The program was built with Privacy by Design principles embedded into every layer to make sure that it allows researchers to access useful data. But it does not put data, and specifically privacy, at risk – far from it. With these principles in place, they are helping to build trust in technology and create a better world.

In an era where citizens recognize and care about their data more than ever before, it is critical that we get this right. There are organizations that recognize the importance of fostering trust in the digital world and lead the way forward by collaborating at an international level to develop the cross-functional co-operation the world needs. Doing so requires a commitment to education, transparency, accountability, responsible innovation, participatory design and dedication to ensuring that respect for data is always the first priority.

We must champion these principles at an international scale to protect our rights and set technology up for sustainable success – especially now, as AI’s use grows exponentially and legislation is being developed in jurisdictions across the globe. Without these principles, we simply won’t realize the full potential of our innovation.

Privacy by Design is not just a good idea – it is essential to mitigate the potential risks of AI and protect our digital future.

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