Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Mounties buying Canadians' personal info

Last Saturday's Ottawa Citizen ran an article on the RCMP's practice of purchasing personal informaton from some of the larger data brokers operating in North America, including Lexis Nexis and Cornerstone. The Canadian Internet and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa isn't impressed:

Mounties buying Canadians' personal info:

"OTTAWA - Since September 2001, the Mounties have been buying and storing personal information on Canadians from private data brokers, which have been used by U.S. authorities to combat terrorism even though the information they sell has been criticized for its inaccuracy.

Data brokers collect personal information from all kinds of sources, ranging from warranty forms, gold credit card use, travel agencies and donations to charitable and religious groups.

Traditionally, the information is sold to third parties, usually marketers looking to target a consumer niche.

Privacy experts say the RCMP's purchase and storage of such information raises questions about the reach of law-enforcement agencies into the lives of Canadians, particularly in the wake of the Arar inquiry.

The inquiry concluded the Mounties forwarded inaccurate intelligence to U.S. counterparts who in turn deported Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, back to his homeland, Syria, only to be wrongfully jailed and tortured.

'Why are (the Mounties) gathering information from these sources?' asked Philippa Lawson, executive director at the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, a technology-law group at the University of Ottawa. 'What are they using it for? To what extent are they relying on it and for what purposes?"

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