#CyberFLASH: Researchers to study big data collection used on Canadians

91910728A group of prominent researchers has signed on to study what information is being collected about Canadians and what it’s being used for, saying the public remains largely in the dark on the mass accumulation of personal data.

The five-year project, which will be led by the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., will examine the use of what’s known as “big data.”

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association, University of Victoria and B.C.’s privacy commissioner are among the organizations that have joined the project as partners.

Micheal Vonn, the civil liberties association’s policy director, said Tuesday that big data consists of massive, complex data sets. The decisions made from such data, she said, can adversely affect individual rights and threaten privacy – though much about the collection of the data and its use is unknown.

“Big-data surveillance is one of the leading human-rights issues of the 21st century,” Ms. Vonn said in an interview.

Among other things, she said, the project will examine how organizations track individuals’ activities and social media use.

“We have one stream that is devoted to looking at big data in the context of national security. Another stream is devoted to what’s called marketing, but will also include things that many people don’t see in marketing, like … political parties’ databases and how they go about targeting the electorate,” she said.

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