Public information more public, private information less private

It is a harrowing experience to sit down and imagine how much information really exists out in cyber space about each and every one of us. All of your speeding tickets, video rentals and blood test results most likely reside in a database somewhere. Most of the data is unassuming, for though a world leader might be slightly embarrassed to admit that he once rented The Coneheads, quite possibly the worst movie ever made, were that information to become public it is unlikely it would influence an election.

But what about an HIV blood test? Society is such that the very fact someone had the test done opens the door to doubts. Years ago blood tests were done in a lab and the only results resided in your medical folder at the doctor’s office.

Over the years governments have decided what information is best left in the public domain and what should remain private. Most of it has been easy to differentiate. Personal court and criminal records are public, while personal income and tax records are private. Regardless, most public information was so difficult and time consuming to access, it was, though theoretically in the public domain, essentially private.

Technology has changed all of this.

Today’s data is much easier to access because so much of it exists in digital form. In the early days of information technology there was not a great deal of thought made about the repercussions of digitizing information.

But databases, especially those tied into the Internet have opened up an unforeseen Pandora’s Box.

Rick Shields, counsel in Ottawa with McCarthy T

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