September 05, 2003 Features & Images » Feature Story

Feature - Security measures 

Two years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are we facing another assault?

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But Radwanski added: "It would, of course, be preferable from a privacy perspective not to have this database at all, or to have it absolutely restricted to anti-terrorism purposes."

What is allowed under the Customs Act is that Advance Passenger Information, which consists of information contained in a passport, will continue to be stored for six years and can be widely shared by government departments.

The more detailed Passenger Name Record, which contains all the information held by an airline, will be purged by Canada Customs of all meal and health information. PNR data will still be held for six years but use and access vary according to three time periods within the six years.

Privacy issues have become more important and more prevalent in recent years not just because of security measures taken following 9/11 but also because in the electronic world of the 21 st century there is more information about us readily available. Every time we use a credit or debit card, log online or make a phone call we leave a trail of electronic information behind.

And that information has become more valuable as it has become easier to compile, sort and package for any number of purposes.

To protect privacy the same government that is collecting information on air travellers has introduced privacy legislation that will apply to all Canadian businesses starting Jan. 1, 2004, unless a province has "substantially similar legislation" in place. B.C. does.

The B.C. government has introduced its own Personal Information Protection Act, Bill 38. The B.C. law is supported, by and large, by both the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association.

The intention of both the federal and provincial laws is to protect individuals’ privacy by requiring organizations to follow fair information practices regarding the collection, use and disclosure of personal information.

But at the same time it’s telling businesses to be judicious with personal information, the federal government is considering a national identification card for Canadians. Last November Denis Coderre, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, proposed a card that would contain an electronic copy of the holder’s thumbprint, retina or palm print.

Radwanski, the former privacy commissioner, told the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration: "The creation of a national ID card is not only an idea without merit. It is also an idea that is totally without any substantial support."

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