Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Conservatives and data privacy, 19 times out of 20

It’s no surprise I’m not a fan of our Conservative government, but I think I’d be a lot less annoyed with them day-to-day if I could sense there were at least some guiding principles behind their decisions. Even if I don’t agree with them, a little logical consistency would be nice sometimes.

Take the issue of data privacy. For a somewhat nerdy and technical issue, proposed Conservative changes to the census have been getting a lot of attention lately. In essence, the Conservatives want to drop the mandatory long-form census that goes to a certain percentage of the population, and replace it with a voluntary one that goes to a larger group. Statisticians say this would render the data useless and make the whole exercise pointless. The Conservatives say people have privacy concerns about the long-form, they feel it’s true intrusive and don’t trust the government with the information, even though it is only used in aggregate. So, the government claims, this is a data privacy issue and we must heed their concerns.

Contrast this with another story that has been getting less attention, but is also quite important. The Conservatives are pushing a bill that would give the personal passenger information data of Canadian citizens to the U.S. government if their flight overflies U.S. airspace, even if the flight is going to a third country and is never even landing in the U.S. What’s more, the U.S. government would be able to veto any passenger on security grounds, and prevent them from taking that flight. It’s also worth noting many domestic Canadian flight-paths overfly U.S. airspace, particularly those in and out of Southern Ontario.

So, if you’re following at home, the Conservatives are vetoing a mandatory long-form census, even though the data is only used in aggregate to help make better informed public policy decisions, because some people (apparently, so they’d have us believe) have concerns about their private data going to their government. But they have no concerns sending the private data of Canadian citizens to the a foreign government and allowing a foreign government to prevent Canadians from boarding flights to other countries for reasons they don’t even have to share with us.

Makes complete sense to me.

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1 comment:

Eugene Forsey Liberal said...

Good push of flight list story. Awful as is, and should add point: no proposed reciprocity, ie. Americans not going to share THEIR flight lists of flights going over Canada.

And there have been many of these, through Orders in Council and regulations, post-9/11: Manley was the one who was all gee-whiz for them, pleasing USA even more and before they asked. No reciprocity on almost any of them, as bad as they are. And no publicity, just quiet OICs and regs, because Govt knows Cdns would freak if they found out how much of their info was being shared - and also without new laws! Very very bad by Manley and LPC, worse by Harper and CPC.

Contrary to all basic liberal principles, and nat'l sovereignty.