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May 1, 2017
For Immediate Release

Brantford – “Big data” is everywhere and cities are making extensive use of it. From figuring out where to deploy police officers to creating public transit schedules, municipalities are increasingly using data in ways that affect our everyday lives. What does all this data collection mean for our privacy? Or for populations, such as homeless people, about whom less data is available? What are the ethics of doing this type of research, particularly in cultural contexts such as Indigenous communities?

A free public conference organized by Wilfrid Laurier University, in partnership with the City of Brantford, will explore these issues and more. The two-day "Big Data in Cities: Barriers and Benefits" symposium will take place May 8 and 9, at the Hampton Inn & Suites by Holiday Inn Brantford.

“Many Canadian cities, including Brantford, are still in the relatively early stages of using big data, so there are plenty of opportunities for communities explore its applications,” said conference organizer James Popham, an assistant professor of Criminology. “For instance, big data analysis has been used by Public Safety Canada to inform policy on multiple topics, including hate-motivated crime, corruption, and the drug trade.”

A major goal of the symposium is to develop a set of practical guidelines that will help shape current and future data-sharing practices. The City of Brantford will use these guidelines to move forward with big-data initiatives.

“The guidelines, which conference participants can contribute to through three plenary sessions, will detail how cities can go about collecting data in the community in a sound and safe manner and will also provide suggestions on how they can operationalize it,” said Popham.

“Having reliable and accurate data is essential to creating policies and programs that make a real difference in people’s lives,” said City of Brantford Manager of Community Partnerships Michelle Connor. “The more we know about our community, the more quickly we can address issues and create positive change. Together with our provincial partners, Wilfrid Laurier University and our local health unit, we work collaboratively to collect, analyze and share data that informs policy and program development.”

The keynote address at noon on May 8 will be by Ann Cavoukian, executive director of the Privacy and Big Data Institute at Ryerson University and former information and privacy commissioner for the Province of Ontario. Her talk on privacy by design will argue that privacy and innovation can coexist.

Other presentation topics include:

  • Drones and data in municipal spaces;
  • Using big data to build healthier environments;
  • Quantifying organized crime in Canada; and
  • Using data to inform social, educational and health policy.

A full conference schedule is available at brantfordbigdata.ca. For more information, contact James Popham.

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Media Contacts:

James Popham, Assistant Professor, Criminology

E: jpopham@wlu.ca
T: 519.756.8228 x5631

Beth Gurney, Associate Director, Communications and Public Affairs Brantford

E: bgurney@wlu.ca
T: 519.756.8228 x5753

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