Computers Freedom and Privacy opened with the Privacy Commissioner of Canada Jennifer Stoddart. It was a great talk and here is what I captured from it –
We are endanger of loosing our rights.
She gave an introduction to the state of privacy in Canada. There has been a Privacy Act since 1983 that gives the privacy commissioner authority under the act.
- Fixed Term for independence from the government of the day.
- Reports directly to parliament.
- Advocacy through parliament.
- People who have been denied privacy in some way can complain
- Oversight of 150 federal government agencies including – RCMP (National Police), CSIS (Canadian CIA), Communications Security Establishment (surveys foreign communication)
She highlighted the case of Maher Aror an innocent Canadian citizen deported to Syria from the US and part of the reason for this was that the Canaidan government provided misleading information.
Canada more recently passed the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act – PIPEDA which was Introduced in response to the EU Data Protection Directive requirements.
Canada one of few countries out side of the EU that has ‘adequate’ privacy protections and is a place were EU data can be exported here.
Privacy Commissioner of Canada responsible for the application PIPEDA and has the power to:
- Investigate complaints
- Go to Court
- Conduct audits
- Produce reports
- Liaise with industry, consumer groups and parliament.
This is a good law because there is:
- No requirement to register databases (as in Europe).
- No yearly fees to remit.
- No reports to files to data commissioner.
- No authorization to export data.
There is no named constitutional right of privacy however the canadian courts have interpreted Canadian charter of rights and freedoms to provide this.
There is a tangle and it is a challenge to address privacy.
Country only legislation is not enough International cooperation is needed. She is involved in the OECD where she is the chair volunteer group on transboarder privacy enforcement.
Canada’s response to Anti-Terro Legislation-
Trying to find the right balance between privacy and security
Anti-terrorism Act of 2001 has impacted privacy rights through:
- Broadened surveilance powers
- Weekened constraints on use of powers
- Reduced accountability and transparancy of governmnet
Lack of facts and evidence to suggest that the measures in the Act are necessary
Parliament has not acted on the expressed concerns.
She highlighted the UK information Commissioner talking about Working Together
- Too many different privacy controls in different parts of the world.
- Inconsistency cause complexity, increased costs, and reduced consumer trust and confidence.
- Consistency reduces the trans-boarder data flow and protects information.
- The US and EU should work together.
Substantive agreement on privacy recognized rather then details about how it happens.
We need to question government policies that encroach on freedoms
Is surveillance a long term solution?
We must look at how these threats to us come about. Are we just perpetuating anamosity that leads to people wanting to cause harm to us?
How do these threats to our security come about and what are alternatives do we have to massive surveillance.?
We must explore new contours for privacy.
Oh yes…she also pointed out the US had prohibited entry of a Canadian researcher who had in the 60’s taken LSD as part of experiments at Stanford that he found out when he ‘googled’ the guy when he was crossing the boarder and reading the article that came up describing this. It was covered in TheTyee just last week.
SHE DIDN’T talk about the Canadian Government doing the same thing to US Citizens with minor criminal records. Covered in the San Francisco Chronicle in February. She is coming back and we can ask her questions hopefully she will also turn the spotlight on her own countries behavior with regard to this. It is all happening because of the sharing of criminal records cross boarder.
Take the case of 55-year-old Lake Tahoe resident Greg Felsch. Stopped at the border in Vancouver this month at the start of a planned five-day ski trip, he was sent back to the United States because of a DUI conviction seven years ago. Not that he had any idea what was going on when he was told at customs: “Your next stop is immigration.”
Felsch was ushered into a room. “There must have been 75 people in line,” he says. “We were there for three hours. One woman was in tears. A guy was sent back for having a medical marijuana card. I felt like a felon with an ankle bracelet.”
Or ask the well-to-do East Bay couple who flew to British Columbia this month for an eight-day ski vacation at the famed Whistler Chateau, where rooms run to $500 a night. They’d made the trip many times, but were surprised at the border to be told that the husband would have to report to “secondary” immigration.
There, in a room he estimates was filled with 60 other concerned travelers, he was told he was “a person who was inadmissible to Canada.” The problem? A conviction for marijuana possession.
Welcome to the new world of border security. Unsuspecting Americans are turning up at the Canadian border expecting clear sailing, only to find that their past — sometimes their distant past — is suddenly an issue.
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