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Privacy Commissioner awards $49,972 to Queen's University for study on privacy implications of location technologies

Ottawa, January 27, 2005 – The Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Jennifer Stoddart, is pleased to announce that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) is awarding $49,972, under its Contributions Program, to Queen's University Surveillance Project for research into the use of personal location technologies in Canada.

"Devices such as cell phones, in-vehicle navigation systems, RFID tags, video surveillance systems, highway tolling systems and machine-readable identity documents offer the potential of tracking the location and movements of individuals throughout society on a scale that was previously unimaginable," said Ms. Stoddart. "There is little public knowledge or awareness of the capacity of these mobile tracking systems, and to date, there has been little debate on how best to protect the privacy of Canadians in the context of these new technologies."

The project will determine major trends in location technology use in Canada, and will study how various devices are used in workplaces, schools, individual homes, vehicles, ports of entry and the justice system. Commercial use of location technology for advertising will also be studied.

The project will also document key trends and growth markets in location technologies for a Canada-wide survey of utilization, and will include a small-scale local case study of how these devices are used in the Kingston area.

"Canada is a highly mobile society and Canadians make increasing use of 'location technologies' — any technique for keeping tabs on people (and things) while in transit. Our OPC-funded project will aid in the promotion of accountability of organizations that process personal data, and the search for adequate means of protection of data subjects at every level," says Dr. David Lyon of Queen's University.

The Queen's University Surveillance Project is partially funded from the OPC's Contributions Program, launched in June 2004, to foster and develop Canada's national capacity for research into privacy issues and emerging technologies. The project is one of 10 research initiatives and programs funded by the OPC.

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For more information, please contact:

Renée Couturier
Director, Public Education and Communications
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Tel: (613) 995-0103

Joan Sharpe
Project Manager, The Surveillance Project
Queen's University
Tel: (613) 533-6000, ext. 78867

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