As debate over data privacy heats up, the former chief financial officer of Google is stressing that the “very large benefit” that comes from consumers  sharing their data cannot be overlooked.

Patrick Pichette, who recently joined venture capital firm Inovia Capital in his hometown of Montreal, said that a balance must be struck between privacy protection and technology firms seeking innovation with data. 

“At the end of day, people also want benefits. When you turn on Google Maps and you want directions, unless you give information on where you are, it can’t help you. You’re willing to trade off a bit of information of you for a very large benefit,” Pichette said in an interview with BNN Friday.

“The question is, where is that line that actually protects your privacy, keeps you in control as an individual, and gives you the maximum benefit and has the right tradeoff for the company that serves you on other side? It’s neither a black or white thing.”

Debate over online data privacy has recently ramped up after revelations that 87 million Facebook users’ data was improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

BlackBerry co-founder and former co-CEO Jim Balsillie has called on Canada to create a national data strategy. Without one, Balsillie says Canada is endangering its sovereignty and security, and losing out on an opportunity to become a global leader in data-based businesses.

Pichette said governments certainly have a role to play in big data.  

“Let’s not kid ourselves. Governments represent us as citizens,” Pichette said.

“There’s going to be more debate over the years, but I think there’s a role for government, there’s a role absolutely for private enterprise to push boundaries to look for opportunities, and there is a role for citizens in decision-making. We have to have that triangle well balanced.” 

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Pichette previously worked at BlackBerry. In fact, Pichette was never employed at the company. BNN regrets the error.