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Privacy Commissioner awards $14,850 to Simon Fraser University for privacy research into prepaid communications services

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 $14,850, under its Contributions Program, to Simon Fraser University's Centre for Policy Research on Science and Technology for a study of anonymous "pay-as-you-go" communications services in Canada, focusing on potential regulatory measures and the balance between individual privacy and legitimate law enforcement needs.

"The intersection of technology with privacy legislation and law enforcement creates fascinating challenges and opportunities for policy development," said Ms. Stoddart. "There is pressure from public safety agencies to register or use prepaid communications services, but there is little empirical evidence that such a system would reduce crime or increase security. I anticipate the study will help bring knowledge to this complex debate."

The purpose of the study is to investigate the justification for, and feasibility of, regulatory measures to eliminate the sale of anonymous prepaid communications services in Canada. The initial phase of the study will gain a more complete understanding of the regulatory treatment of prepaid services in countries similar to Canada by conducting a comparative survey of 30 OECD member states to identify linkages between privacy rights, lawful access requirements and emerging commercial arrangements for the provision of electronic voice and data communications.

"With the results of this study, we hope to contribute to an informed public policy debate on new communication technologies and privacy rights in Canada," said Dr. Gordon Gow, the principle investigator for this program.

According to statistics, about 30 percent of mobile phone users in Canada use pre-paid services. Signing up for this type of service eliminates the need for a credit check or a contract, and service providers have no need to collect personal information from subscribers. This anonymity poses challenges to law enforcement agencies; some countries, such as Australia and Switzerland, have banned anonymous pre-paid services in response.

The Simon Fraser research project is 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. This project is one of 10 research initiatives 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
E-mail: rcouturier@priv.gc.ca

Dr. Gordon Gow
Research Associate
Simon Fraser University
Tel: 011 44 207 955 7695
E-mail: gagow@sfu.ca or g.gow@lse.ac.uk

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