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Canadian and US Governments deliver ‘month late, dollar short’ border privacy deal
June 29th, 2012 10:53am
The day before the beginning of a long weekend in both Canada and the United States, our governments finally released perimeter security privacy protection principles that were supposed to have been completed on May 30. It really wasn’t worth the wait.

You can see the full text of the document at http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/prg/le/bs/bynd-brdr-eng.aspx

Adding irony to the Canadian announcement is the fact that it was made on the 30th anniversary of the federal Access to Information Act. What the government just announced will certainly provide more access to Canadians personal information to the US and other governments.

Under the privacy principles, the two governments will be able to share our personal information with other countries without notice to citizens, but only if there is an ‘agreement or arrangement’ in place with the third country. An arrangement can be as simple as an agreement between officials made by email or over the telephone, so these protections are largely illusory.

The Beyond the Border deal signed late last year allows the US to disclose private Canadian information to other countries if it deems that disclosure to be in the interest of national security. According to the principles, the only oversight this disclosure receives is from the disclosing country itself, and is carried out in accordance only with “the domestic law of the receiving country.”

Another troubling feature is the vague language around “Transparency and Notice.” The document states that “the United States and Canada are to provide individuals, as required by law, with general and, as appropriate, individual notice, at least to the purpose of the provision, receipt and use of personal information that concerns the individual, the identity of the entity controlling that information” Yet nowhere in the principles are the terms of that ‘appropriateness’ specified or defined.

The Harper government has brought forward several initiatives to change the domestic law of Canada to reduce privacy protections. These include the online spying bill, C-30, which was the subject of a massive wave of protest when it was first introduced by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, the co-author of these privacy principles. That Bill would provide more access to Canadians’ personal information, and another--Bill C-12--would prevent ISPs and others from telling customers that their information has been collected by the police or other government authorities.

FIPA will continue to track and respond to these actions.

Media coverage of the deal is available here.



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