A new year’s errand list

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As we close out 2007, we’d like to sound a note of caution for privacy rights in Canada. We are lucky to have a variety of protections for personal information and data at the territorial, provincial and federal levels. Nevertheless, the Commissioner took a moment last week to highlight some of the steps that need to be taken by individuals, corporations and the government in the face of continuing challenges:

“Heightened national security concerns, the growing business appetite for personal information and technological advances are all potent – and growing – threats to privacy rights,” said Commissioner Stoddart. “The coming year will be another challenging one for privacy in Canada.”

What challenges, you may ask? Privacy International, a London-based non-governmental organization, issued their annual report on privacy protection world-wide. Canada was one of three countries recognized as a world-leader, but we were criticized on several fronts:

  • Federal commission is widely recognised as lacking in powers such as order-marking powers, and ability to regulate trans-border data flows
  • Variety of provincial privacy commissioners have made privacy-enhancing decisions and taken cases through the courts over the past year (particularly Ontario)
  • Court orders required for interception and there is no reasonable alternative method of investigation
  • Video surveillance is spreading despite guidelines from privacy commissioners
  • Highly controversial no-fly list, lacking legal mandate
  • Continues to threaten new policy on online surveillance
  • Increased calls for biometric documents to cater for U.S. pressure, while plans are still unclear for biometric passports
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