The Canadian Privacy Law Blog: Developments in privacy law and writings of a Canadian privacy lawyer, containing information related to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (aka PIPEDA) and other Canadian and international laws.

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The author of this blog, David T.S. Fraser, is a Canadian privacy lawyer who practices with the firm of McInnes Cooper. He is the author of the Physicians' Privacy Manual. He has a national and international practice advising corporations and individuals on matters related to Canadian privacy laws.

For full contact information and a brief bio, please see David's profile.

Please note that I am only able to provide legal advice to clients. I am not able to provide free legal advice. Any unsolicited information sent to David Fraser cannot be considered to be solicitor-client privileged.

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The views expressed herein are solely the author's and should not be attributed to his employer or clients. Any postings on legal issues are provided as a public service, and do not constitute solicitation or provision of legal advice. The author makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained herein or linked to. Nothing herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel.

This web site is presented for informational purposes only. These materials do not constitute legal advice and do not create a solicitor-client relationship between you and David T.S. Fraser. If you are seeking specific advice related to Canadian privacy law or PIPEDA, contact the author, David T.S. Fraser.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Who's minding the store (of private data you gave up)? 

Today's USA Today has an OP/ED on privacy and the little bits of data that consumers are willing to give up in exchange for a bit of convenience or a discount. There aren't any great revelations in the article, but it is an example of how the call for greater regulation is moving front and centre in the mainstream media: - Who's minding the store (of private data you gave up)?

"Several recent developments have chipped away at privacy:

• Invisible surveillance. Information is increasingly collected without the knowledge, much less permission, of those giving it up. "Black boxes" the size of cigarette packs have been installed in 40 million vehicles to monitor speed, seat-belt use and more. Only five states require that car buyers be informed of its presence. From Philadelphia to Chicago to Los Angeles, surveillance cameras are on silent watch in public spaces. London's recent success in capturing photos of terrorists has fed the calls for more.

• Collection mania. Data mining is big business. Companies vacuum up data from public and private sources, aggregate it, analyze it and sell it to buyers ranging from private companies to the CIA. Any one item is not very invasive, but when birth certificates, credit histories, real estate deeds, military records and insurance claims are pulled together, they paint intimate pictures. If errors exist, the public has no way to know or demand fixes.

• Data thefts. In recent months, breaches involving banks, credit card processors, colleges and the biggest of the data brokers, ChoicePoint, have left millions of people vulnerable to identity theft. Legislators and the companies themselves have done little to correct the problem.

• Government mischief. Collection of information by the government is often fraught with errors and overreaching. The Transportation Security Administration's "no-fly" list has repeatedly ensnared innocent travelers. The agency was rapped again Friday for violating privacy while trying to create another program to screen fliers.

It's easy to sympathize with the goals of much of this data collection, whether safer driving or terrorism prevention. But it might be possible to reach those goals less invasively.

Congress and state lawmakers need to establish basic protections for all information. Businesses need to realize they can profit more by viewing consumers as partners, not as pesky subjects for dossiers. Individuals will need ways to monitor data about themselves.

Fighting technology is no answer. It won't work. Nor is surrendering to Big Brother. A palatable compromise should involve an active government, private ingenuity and an involved public. Perhaps that's what's finally taking off in Orlando."

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