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Letter from the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario to the Minister of National Revenue

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The Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Ann Cavoukian, sent the following letter to the Honourable Elinor Caplan, Minister of National Revenue, supporting the position of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada on CCRA's plans to establish a massive "Big Brother" database on the foreign travel activities of all law-abiding Canadians.

September 30, 2002

The Honourable Elinor Caplan
Minister of National Revenue
555 Mackenzie Avenue
Ottawa, Ontario

Dear Minister:

I am writing to express my concerns with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency's (CCRA) plans to retain personal information on every air traveller entering Canada. I strongly support the views of my colleague, George Radwanski, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, and ask that you reconsider your plans for creating this database - a database which would be highly invasive of the privacy of all Canadians.

In his letter dated September 26, 2002, Commissioner Radwanski presents a compelling case for why the CCRA should not proceed with such an objectionable database. Rather than collecting and retaining the personal information of a small number of targeted air travellers, as originally planned, the new database would be far greater in scope and would include information on all passengers. The use of such data for essentially unrestricted purposes, and its retention for a lengthy period of time, is not only unprecedented but unwarranted.

I share Commissioner Radwanski's view that the government of Canada has no business compiling a database of personal information about Canadians' travel, solely for the purpose of having this information available, in the event that it may be useful at some future date. Moreover, I am very concerned that the creation of this database may be in contravention of the federal Privacy Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I urge you to follow the sound advice given by Commissioner Radwanski and not proceed with the proposed collection of passenger information and the creation of this new database - it would create a dangerous precedent.

Sincerely yours,

Ann Cavoukian, Ph.D.

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