Critique of CensusLiving between the linesNotesObservations

Citizen Awakening of the Data Subject?

In the wake of controversies over the census, Facebook and others

ObservationsSaturday, I cleaned the house while listening to a lecture by sociologist Saskia Sassen on the evolving concept of citizenship in a globalizing world recorded for the Big Ideas show (mp3, video). The conference focused on the multiple micro changes that globalization causes in the definition and experience of citizenship (or of the political subjectivity, in other words).

Sassen reminds us that while we tend to experience citizenship as an unitary condition, in fact citizenship is made of a whole bundle of components. At the heart of citizenship, there is a bundle of formal rights that are recognized by State. But there are as well around many other social elements that might not derive from our connection to the State (such as the physical environment of the city vs. the countryside). So one can unbundle citizenship to look as how each of these elements emerges, changes and disappears; thus how the whole idea of citizenship is evolving as a result.

This idea brought me back to that of a citizen awakening as data subject. A theme that corresponds to a wish I expressed as early as in 1988 in my contribution to the book Human Rights in Canada: Into the 1990s and Beyond.[1] Sassen’s lecture called this question to me: are we now also witnessing this historic micro change of the addition of the status of data subject into the consciousness of contemporary citizen? (more…)

Par-delà la vie privée: ce que tout juriste devrait savoir sur les applications des technologies de l’information et des communications concernant les personnes physiques

Couverture-cequetoutjuriste«Par delà la vie privée : ce que tout juriste devrait savoir sur les applications des technologies de l’information et des communications concernant les personnes physiques», Actes de la XIVe Conférence des Juristes de l’État. Cowansville, Québec: Les Éditions Yvon Blais, 2000, 133-148.


This communication organizes itself around a single message: the need to look beyond legal analysis of information technology and communications (ICT) applications involving individuals solely in terms of privacy related rights; or, in other words, the need to see that these devices operate, well beyond the scope of this concept, in a multidimensional reality, often of a complex nature. This text therefore presents facts and arguments in support of a particular approach to the relationship between law, on the one hand, and ICT, on the other. This approach is the result, as much of empirical field work than of historical and theoretical examinations. A set of means to ensure a better assessment of ICT application projects will be presented.


Pierrot_Peladeau - photo : Jean-François Leblanc, Agence Stock Photo






I practice the social assessment of interpersonal information systems since 1982, time at which I participated in the creation of UQAM‘s Groupe de recherche informatique et droit among which I co-authored five books, including the Quebec government commissioned report L’identité piratée (Pirated Identity – SOQUIJ, 1986) on personal information systems in the private sector. This report’s recommendations led to the adoption in 1993 of the first data protection legislation covering the entire private sector in the Americas.

Among many other roles, I was scientific coordinator of the Telehealth Ethics Programme of the Center for Bioethics of the Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM) from 1997 to 2005.

Up to now my research, consulting and teaching activities brought me to work with more than 600 organizations in fields of activities as various as healthcare, social services, banking, government services, telecommunications, public education, personnel management, research with human subjects, community organizations and commerce.


Today, my activities focus primarily on:

  • theory, practice and teaching on social assessment of interpersonal information systems;
  • the use of the image and visual modelling to help understand how they work and explain them to lay-persons; and
  • democratization of decisions regarding design and deployment of interpersonal information systems.

An overview of my personal program of activities can be found here.

I also write a regular digital lives column (in French) in Journal de Montréal and Journal de Québec as well as in blog entries here on this site.


Professional phone (North America +1) : 5 1 4 – 7 1 6 – 0 9 3 7
Twitter :
Email (please use form below) :


Portrait photo: Jean-François Leblanc, Agence Stock Photo

Pictogram “group of persons” on this site’s title: Caroline Cyr

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