BANFF FORUM // Public Health Data, Technology, and Privacy

BANFF FORUM // Public Health Data, Technology, and Privacy

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About this event

COVID-19 is the first pandemic of the digital age and it has prompted a public examination of the trade-offs associated with soft surveillance and the nation’s economic recovery.

Contact tracing has been common practice in public health for many years but in the wake of COVID-19 the push to develop technology to support and enhance this work is stronger than ever. Support continues to grow for digital contact tracing through an anonymous mobile app, but questions remain about the quality and precision of the data it can generate.

Most Canadians leave a trail of data exhaust behind them in their daily online activity, yet there are real privacy concerns to consider when adopting digital tracing technology. Is the data to be gained useful enough to warrant the loss of privacy? Is economic recovery more pressing than continuing to flatten the curve?

Join us as we consider this complex issue through the lens of responsive public policy, ethical technology development, and public health impact. Hosted by Vass Bednar, we’ll hear from Dr. Abhinav Sharma, Bianca Wylie, and Abhishek Gupta.

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Vass Bednar is a public policy solo-preneur working at the intersection of technology and public policy. She is an interdisciplinary wonk focussed on ensuring that we have the regulatory structures we need to embrace the future of work and new ways of living. As an enthusiastic and perpetual student of the policymaking process, she has held leadership roles at Delphia, Airbnb, Queen's Park, the City of Toronto, and University of Toronto. Vass is recognized as a creative, data-driven thinker and was the Chair of the federal government's Expert Panel on Youth Employment. A graduate of McMaster University's Arts & Science Program, Vass holds her Master of Public Policy (MPP) from the University of Toronto and successfully completed Action Canada and Civic Action DiverseCity Fellowships. Passionate about public dialogue, she was also the co-host of "Detangled," a weekly pop-culture and public policy radio show and podcast that ran from 2016-2018. She currently writes a newsletter about Canadian startups and public policy called "regs to riches" and was recently recognized as an outstanding alum with a McMaster "Arch" award.

Abhishek Gupta is the founder of Montreal AI Ethics Institute and a Machine Learning Engineer at Microsoft where he serves on the CSE Responsible AI Board. He additionally serves on the AI Advisory Board for Dawson College and is an Associate Member of the LF AI Foundation at the Linux Foundation. Abhishek is also a Global Shaper with the World Economic Forum and a member of the Banff Forum. He is a Faculty Associate at the Frankfurt Big Data Lab at the Goethe University, an AI Ethics Mentor for Acorn Aspirations and an AI Ethics Expert at Ethical Intelligence Co. He is the Responsible AI Lead for the Data Advisory Council at the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

His research focuses on applied technical and policy methods to address ethical, safety and inclusivity concerns in using AI in different domains. He has built the largest community driven, public consultation group on AI Ethics in the world that has made significant contributions to the Montreal Declaration for Responsible AI, the G7 AI Summit, AHRC and WEF Responsible Innovation framework, PIPEDA amendments for AI impacts, Scotland’s national AI strategy and the European Commission Trustworthy AI Guidelines. His work on public competence building in AI Ethics has been recognized by governments from North America, Europe, Asia and Oceania. More information on his work can be found at

Abhinav Sharma

Bianca Wylie Bianca Wylie is an open government advocate with a dual background in technology and public engagement. She is the co-founder of Digital Public, a co-founder of Tech Reset Canada and is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation. She worked for several years in the tech sector in operations, infrastructure, corporate training, and product management, most recently at Thomson Reuters. As a facilitator at Swerhun Inc., she designed, delivered and supported public consultation processes for various governments and government agencies. In 2014, Bianca founded the Open Data Institute Toronto. She is a columnist, guest lecturer, and speaker on open government and public sector technology policy and a member of the Toronto Public Library’s Innovation Council.