The U.S. Patriot Act is generating a lot of controversy among Americans. In short, the Patriot Act gives the federal government more access to the private information of individuals while simultaneously restricting the rights of individuals to access such data. In short, this is "Big Brother" at its worst. Genealogists already are protesting as new, ludicrous restrictions are being placed on birth records, both recent and those of long ago. Now the controversies are spreading to Canada.
British Columbia Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis says the USA Patriot Act violates provincial privacy laws because it can order American companies to hand over information on British Columbians in secret. Last week, the provincial government brought in amendments to the Privacy Act in an effort to deal with the issue. Loukidelis welcomes the changes, but he believes that the law should be strengthened to include tougher, clearer language – and stiffer penalties.
Loukidelis says that once information is sent across borders, it's difficult, if not impossible, to control. He notes that under the USA Patriot Act, the U.S. government can demand access to a wide range of personal, confidential information. "It is never possible to guarantee perfect protection of information. Regardless, our report concludes that measures can and should be put in place that meaningfully guard against access by the USA Patriot Act," says Loukidelis.
He recommends that Ottawa and the provinces pass legislation that will "prohibit personal information from being stored or sent outside Canada."
You can read more about this story at http://vancouver.cbc.ca/regional/servlet/View?filename=bc_privacy20040528, http://vancouver.cbc.ca/regionalnews/caches/bc_privacy20041029.html and at http://www.oipcbc.org/sector_public/usa_patriot_act/pdfs/report/privacy-final%20summary.pdf.