As technology evolves at an ever-increasing pace, Baker &McKenzie LLP conducted a survey at the 2016 International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) Privacy Symposium in Toronto from May 10-12, 2016 to explore privacy professionals’ views on the emerging technologies that will have the greatest impact on privacy law in the future.  The Privacy Symposium is the largest annual privacy conference in Canada, and over 50 privacy professionals attending the conference completed the survey.

Technologies with the Greatest Privacy Impact

Privacy professionals were asked to select up to 3 technologies from a list of 12 which they considered would most significantly change the way privacy is regulated in the coming years.  Big Data Analytics was selected most frequently, with approximately three-quarters of respondents selecting this technology.  The second-place finishers, with around 38% of respondents choosing each, were Biometrics and Health-Related Technology and Government Surveillance and Encryption.  The full list of technologies itemized in the survey and the percentage of individuals selecting each one is illustrated by the following graph:

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Areas of Information Governance Compliance with the Greatest Impact

The survey also asked respondents to rank 6 areas of information governance compliance (excluding data privacy) by how important they would be to the respondent’s job over the next 2-3 years.  The majority of respondents selected Cybersecurity & Data Security as the area of information governance compliance that would be the most important to their jobs in the near future.

The second greatest percentage of respondents selected Data Breach Compliance as being the most important area of information governance compliance to their jobs (20%), with Records Managementfollowing in third (12%). 

The full list of information governance compliance areas itemized in the survey and the percentage of respondents selecting each one (rounded to the nearest percentage) is illustrated below.

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Conclusions

A significant majority of privacy professionals view Big Data Analytics as the emerging technological trend that will most significantly impact privacy law in the coming years.  Big Data Analytics generally refers to the practice of examining large data sets to detect patterns, correlations, market trends, behaviours and other potentially valuable business information.  Since Big Data Analytics relies on the collection and use of huge amounts of information about individuals, and given that it becomes more and more difficult to fully anonymize personal information the more detailed it is, there is certainly a strong connection between privacy compliance and Big Data Analytics.

It is also noteworthy that the majority of privacy professionals identified Cybersecurity and Data Securityas the area of information governance (besides data privacy) that will be most important to their jobs in the next few years.  News of data breaches and hacks has become commonplace, and the legal costs and reputational harm associated with them are compelling incentives to develop and implement strong enterprise-wide technical, physical and administrative safeguards.  Data Breach Compliance, which involves notifying privacy regulators and affected individuals after a data breach, is closely linked to cybersecurity and data security, so it is unsurprising to see this area of information governance rank next most important.