You will see, below, a summary of an article that reports on a new survey. The survey asked Canadians, among other things, if they trusted the government with their personal information. I found the results to be interesting.
When the federal Privacy Act was first written, the drafters would have had no concept of how much the privacy landscape would change over the next 30 years. It was written when personal information resided on forms that were filled in (by hand) and stored in filing cabinets. Of course, creating a system where the sharing of information was only permitted in prescribed circumstances was a lot easier and more clear. Personal information, back then, did not want to be shared. And, people liked it that way.
Fast forward 30-plus years and we have seen personal information evolve into a prized commodity. It is now stored on media that makes it fluid, even free-flowing at times. Are we prepared to let our government take advantage of this? Is this what we want, with the promise of a super lean, less expensive, faster and more responsive government? Do we truly believe a government can deliver on that promise?
The survey results suggest that many people are open to increased sharing, though there are still many skeptics out there. I think it’s high time to reexamine the incredibly outdated Privacy Act, come up with meaningful changes and finally bring this important quasi-constitutional piece of legislation into the modern age. Right now, if the government makes potentially very privacy-invasive changes to the way in which it operates, Canadians don't have much of a safety net. A couple of poll results aren’t enough to convince me that Canadians don't mind. They may be willing to make certain careful trade-offs, but privacy is still dear.
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