Privacy commissioners urge caution on expanded surveillance plan



    ST. JOHN'S, Sept. 10 /CNW Telbec/ - Parliament should take a cautious
approach to legislative proposals to create an expanded surveillance regime
that would have serious repercussions for privacy rights, say Canada's privacy
guardians.
    Privacy commissioners and ombudspersons from across the country issued a
joint resolution today urging Parliamentarians to ensure there is a clear and
demonstrable need to expand the investigative powers available to law
enforcement and national security agencies to acquire digital evidence.
    The federal government has introduced two bills aimed at ensuring that
all wireless, Internet and other telecommunications companies allow for
surveillance of communications, and comply with government agency demands for
subscriber data - even without judicial authorization.
    "Canadians put a high value on the privacy, confidentiality and security
of their personal communications and our courts have also accorded a high
expectation of privacy to such communications," says Jennifer Stoddart, the
Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
    "The current proposal will give police authorities unprecedented access
to Canadians' personal information," the Commissioner says.
    The resolution is the product of the semi-annual meeting of Canada's
privacy commissioners and ombudspersons from federal, provincial and
territorial jurisdictions across Canada, being held in St. John's.
    The commissioners unanimously expressed concern about the privacy
implications related to Bill C-46, the Investigative Powers for the 21st
Century Act and Bill C-47, the Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the
21st Century Act. Both bills were introduced in June.
    "We feel that the existing legal regime governing interception of
communications - set out in the Criminal Code and carefully constructed by
government and Parliament over the decades - does protect the rights of
Canadians very well," says Ed Ring, the Information and Privacy Commissioner
for Newfoundland and Labrador and host of the meeting.
    "The government has not yet provided compelling evidence to demonstrate
the need for new powers that would threaten that careful balance between
individual privacy and the legitimate needs of law enforcement and national
security agencies."
    The resolution states that, should Parliament determine that an expanded
surveillance regime is essential, it must ensure any legislative proposals:

    
    -   Are minimally intrusive;
    -   Impose limits on the use of new powers;
    -   Require that draft regulations be reviewed publicly before coming
        into force;
    -   Include effective oversight;
    -   Provide for regular public reporting on the use of powers; and
    -   Include a five-year Parliamentary review.
    

    At the meeting in St. John's, the commissioners and ombudspersons also
passed a resolution about the need to protect personal information contained
in online personal health records.
    The resolution emphasizes the importance of empowering patients to
control how their own health information is used and shared. For example, it
calls for developers of personal health records to allow patients to gain
access to their own health information, set rules about who else has access,
and to receive alerts in the event of a breach.
    "Personal health records have the potential to deliver significant
benefits for patients and their health care providers. However, given the
highly sensitive personal information involved, developers need to ensure they
build in the highest privacy standards," says Commissioner Ring.
    Both resolutions are available on the Privacy Commissioner of Canada's
website, www.priv.gc.ca.





For further information:

For further information: and/or media interview requests, please
contact: Valerie Lawton, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, E-mail:
vlawton@priv.gc.ca, Cell in St. John's: (613) 227-8015; Marie Keefe,
Representing the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of NL,
Email: mariekeefe@gov.nl.ca, Tel: (709) 729-6943, Cell: (709) 693-9434


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