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Jennifer Stoddart
Jennifer Stoddart

The Lunch

Jennifer Stoddart: making your privacy her business Add to ...

More clout would definitely make her job easier, but if the social philosopher had one wish, it would be to create a button to make things disappear on the Internet. "What if after five years you could press a 'delete' button" she says, that could wipe out embarrassing photos or posts that never die on the Web. "People have the right to be forgotten."




Born in Toronto, 1949. Daughter of an Ontario government transport lawyer and a kindergarten teacher. Fluent in five languages, she says her early exposure to French in preschool gave her a life-long interest in culture and social issues.


Devoted seven years in Ontario, Quebec and Paris to studying Quebec social history. She completed course work for her doctoral degree at the Université de Paris VII, but did not write her thesis. In 1980, she added a law degree to her collection when she graduated from law school at McGill University. She was called to the Bar in 1981.


Has been Canada's Privacy Commissioner since 2003 and her term was extended this week for another three years. Before that she headed the Quebec Commission on Access to Information and had senior positions at the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women.


Lives in Ottawa during the week, but returns home to Montreal on the weekend, where she lives with her husband, an architect and professor of urban planning. They have two adult sons.


Keeps an Arabian endurance horse outside of Montreal where she trains to compete in long-distance rides. Earlier this year she rode for four hours on a 25-mile endurance competition in Vermont and is now training for a longer course. "Before I get too old I want to do a 50-mile endurance competition."



On arriving at the embattled Privacy Commission in 2003 after her predecessor George Radwanski departed under the cloud of an expense account scandal:

"The office was in such bad shape that anyone who came to work for us thought they would be committing career suicide."

On the eruption of government secrets from WikiLeaks:

"This isn't about open government. These are leaks of information that would otherwise be inaccessible. It seems folly to say there are things in government that should not be confidential, particularly in a volatile world where national security issues in a heavily armed world are crucial."

On regulating privacy in a rapidly evolving digital world:

"I think we have to keep talking … privacy is an inherently subjective concept. To apply rules rigidly is not helpful. It stifles the economic benefit it creates."

On her biggest privacy fears:

"I worry about the kids. The teens, the 20-year-olds who are experimenting, sharing things, taking risks and acting out like we all did. But on the Internet this behaviour is documented forever."

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