Increased cross border security key to privacy, Stoddart says

Without privacy many rights also disappear.

This was one of the key messages at Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart’s keynote address at the IAPP (International Association of Privacy Professionals) 2006 conference in Toronto.

The now infamous case of Maher Arar was highlighted by Stoddart as an example of what can go wrong with information sharing between two countries, in this case the U.S and Canada.

“Serious consequences can result from government institutions providing inaccurate personal information to other governments,” said Stoddart.

In the Arar case the consequence was his deportation by U.S. authorities to Syria and subsequent torture.

Stoddart called for more work to be done on the international front to address cross border issues.

“We all need to be working together to face the challenging issues that we’re confronted with,” she said. “There needs to be a better understanding of personal information about Canadians shared across borders.”

Her comments come soon after a Network World U.S. article reported that FBI Director Robert Mueller announced Internet service providers (ISPs) may be under greater pressure to provide customer information to the government.

“Today, terrorists coordinate their plans cloaked in the anonymity of the Internet, as do violent sexual predators prowling chat rooms,” Mueller said to the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Boston.

The FBI’s request could generate debate over infringements on civil liberties and privacy, according to Industry watchers.

“We must find a balance between the legitimate need for privacy and law enforcement’s clear need for access,” said Mueller.

Stoddart noted that private sector bodies are being encouraged to act as agents of the state.

“Data protection authorities haven’t paid enough attention between data protection matters nationally and around the globe.”

She told the audience of industry professionals that they have a unique insight into the operation of data protection rules and risk to privacy, which also brings greater responsibilities.

“Fears of terrorism must not become a convenient excuse for the destruction of the protection of privacy.”

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