Hands across the ocean

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An article out of the UK this morning reports that the U.S. FBI is considering the development of an international database in collaboration with the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada which could potentially make personal information – biometric data like iris, palm and finger prints – of its citizens instantly available to police forces in other partner countries. The U.S.-led program, called “Server in the Sky”, would aid forces in tracking down major criminals and suspected terrorists.

The proposal to link databases is ambitious: each proposed partner country has different standards for the collection, storage and use of biometric information.

Governments already share information across borders, but under strict controls designed to protect the rights, including the right to privacy, of innocent individuals. While international participation in the Server in the Sky program looks to be in its very early days, it will be interesting to see who participates, and how. In terms of Canadian participation, our citizens rightfully expect that their personal information remains safeguarded and understandably, could be reluctant to see that information freely shared with two countries that were ranked near the bottom of Privacy International’s ratings of privacy protection around the world.

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