There are a few reporters in Canada who cover the privacy industry. Jim Bronskill is one of them. If you don’t already follow him, you should. For at least 20 years, from what I can tell, he has done a good job understanding and covering information rights. He even has an access-to-information book out there, if you’re interested.
I mention Jim in particular because we feature an article of his this week in the digest below. He studied the Privacy Commissioner’s Annual Report (tabled just before the holidays) and reports on an interesting case that didn't get much air time.
The story is about six well-founded complaints against the Canada Border Services Agency. Turns out that some border guards were violating the Privacy Act and their own internal policies when forcing travelers to hand over their cellphones to gain entry into the country.
I’ve mentioned it before in this space that I am somewhat reluctant to travel internationally these days — not because I’ve done anything wrong, but because I find the invasion of privacy at the border to be unnerving (I’m being polite). Why must these border guards treat everyone as though they are a criminal? Is that the only way to catch the bad actors? This frustrates me.
As Privacy Commissioner of Canada Daniel Therrien concludes, an invasion of privacy at the border should only occur if there are reasonable grounds to suspect wrongdoing. They go on to explain how a border guard might develop those reasonable grounds. To be clear, it is not supposed to be random or haphazard. Law-abiding people should not be subject to such invasions of privacy.
Of course, the commissioner’s investigation (obviously) only looked at what Canadian border guards are doing. It will be a long time indeed before we ever reach a happy compromise with border guards from other countries — where we have basically no privacy protection at all.
With all that in mind, I’m about to book my ticket and registration for the upcoming IAPP Global Summit in Washington. When the time comes, I hope they let me in without me having to give up my phone. I may have some cute dog pictures on there, but my clients, for example, deserve for their data to be protected.
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