15 Jan 2008

Hands across the ocean

An article out of the UK this morning reports that the U.S. FBI is considering the development of an international database in collaboration with the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada which could potentially make personal information – biometric data like iris, palm and finger prints – of its citizens instantly available to police forces in other partner countries. The U.S.-led program, called “Server in the Sky”, would aid forces in tracking down major criminals and suspected terrorists.

The proposal to link databases is ambitious: each proposed partner country has different standards for the collection, storage and use of biometric information.

Governments already share information across borders, but under strict controls designed to protect the rights, including the right to privacy, of innocent individuals. While international participation in the Server in the Sky program looks to be in its very early days, it will be interesting to see who participates, and how. In terms of Canadian participation, our citizens rightfully expect that their personal information remains safeguarded and understandably, could be reluctant to see that information freely shared with two countries that were ranked near the bottom of Privacy International’s ratings of privacy protection around the world.

3 Responses

Hopefully anonymous Says:

I heard about this program on the radio last night; glad to see the Commissioner’s office taking note so promptly.

Considering we’re still reeling in the aftermath of the Arar case, how can Canadians, or any other sovereign country, feel secure knowing the US has access to their biometric data. Guantanamo is still open and foreigners are still subject to extraordinary rendition (disappearing for years).

Do we have problems with major International criminals and terrorists? Apparently not. And even if we did, how many innocent people will get caught in the crossfire before the authorities stand down?

Sr. Guerrero, you pointed out the American’s privacy failings in the report by Privacy International; I don’t think anyone is surprised. What about Canada’s rank? We went from green to yellow, noted as “decaying.” Sounds like someone’s not doing their job north of the 49th.

Colin McKay Says:

You know, I don’t think it’s a question of someone “not doing their job.”

Rather, it falls to Canadians in all sorts of professions to stand up for privacy rights. Every Canadian should question proposals to install surveillance equipment in their neighbourhood, or to expand the collection and sharing of personal information, or a promise that a new security program will safeguard their information and their personal privacy.

At the moment, Canadians (and many others around the world) are acquiesce to requests for more security and more surveillance without questioning the need, the efficiency or the impact of these new programs.

That’s a habit we all have to change.

Hopefully anonymous Says:

While that might all be true, it doesn’t mean that those already empowered to do something about Canadians’ privacy are relieved of the responsibility of making conscientious decisions.

The report specifically mentions that Privacy Commissioners are not empowered to the degree that they should be in order to do their jobs. It also mentions that provincial Commissioners have made strides. That bodes well for Ms. Stoddard and Co. but it may well be time to step up to the plate to take on/educate the politicians whose decisions are “decaying” the rights of Canadians at the behest of American imperialistic demands.

Can I suggest a blog entry or press release covering the Commissioner’s take on this report’s findings as it relates to current and future legislation over the next 12 months?

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