Cavoukian cautioned the audience about the dangers of data linkages, in which personally identifiable information, such as IP addresses and mobile device identifiers, are linked to anonymous data, such as surfing records.
"While our Supreme Court in Canada missed out on an ideal opportunity to address the vital issue of data linkages, the United States court did not," she said, referring to the court's upholding the need for police to obtain a warrant before tagging a car with GPS.
Warrants are vital for accountability, said Cavoukian, adding: "If the police have a basis for which they should access personally identifiable information on someone that they believe is involved in wrongdoing, then they can make their case to a judge."
Cavoukian railed against Canadian lawful access legislation, which supports giving law enforcement officers warrantless access to internet usage data. She expects that legislation to be reintroduced "most likely" in February.
Cavoukian has been a proponent of "privacy by design," a term that she invented. Security should be baked into products and services rather than implemented as an afterthought, she said. In 2010, privacy commissioners around the world adopted it as an international standard.The Canadian event was designed to coincide with International Privacy Day on Jan. 28.