Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Repatriating Canadian Information

Although this is not a banned book issue, censorship and the threat of the US Patriot Act were in the news. The Ontario Library Association (OLA) highlights a CBC story that reports that dozens of university and college libraries in Canada are rethinking how students and faculty do their research. Universities are abandoning US-based servers to protect researchers who may be doing work on sensitive issues. RefWorks is a popular research tool based in the US which is subscribed to by many Canadian universities. The US Patriot Act, allows the US government to routinely sweep through databases like RefWorks. In theory, students or faculty members who are doing legitimate research on sensitive issues could be flagged in the US. The universities which are now switching to databases kept on Canadian servers believe that their Canadian users should have fall under the Patriot Act.

Conerns about information on Canadians ending up in the hands of US investigators has been a concern, according to a past story by the CBC. In a report on privacy implications of the Patriot Act, B.C. Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis pointed out that the USA Patriot Act violates British Columbia's privacy laws because it can order American companies to hand over information on British Columbians in secret. Once information is sent over the border, it is difficult to control. The U.S. government has access to a wide range of personal and confidential information about Canadians from U.S. financial institutions, phone companies and internet providers. If information is stored in US computers, it can be accessed under the Patriot Act.

Recommendations made in the BC report is to "prohibit personal information from being stored or sent outside Canada" and to make it illegal for Canadian subsidiaries of U.S. firms to turn over information to a U.S. agency without a Canadian court order.

On a related topic, the CBC reports on concerns about privacy.
Canada's privacy commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, reported that much more could be done to keep foreign governments, Washington in particular, from collecting personal information about Canadians. Stoddart hopes that the Canadian government will respond to Canadians' concerns about privacy by introducing a new Privacy Act.

According to a poll commissioned by her office,
...a whopping 94 per cent of Canadians surveyed have expressed some concern about Canadian companies transferring customers' personal information to companies in other countries.

As well, her office has had concerns about our own Anti-terrorism Act. She hopes that a new privacy act can respond to "the reality of huge government systems that are capable of a surveillance we could not have dreamed of in 1982."

"As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know. "

—Feb. 12, 2002, Donald Rumsfeld, Department of Defense news briefing

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