I was traveling yesterday afternoon, and while in the Billy Bishop airport lounge in downtown Toronto, I was texting my teenage son about his day. He politely asked me about mine, and I told him I was trying to come up with a great topic for the introductory remarks to this week’s digest.
“Dad,” he wrote, “you’re sitting in an airport. Just look around, and you’ll see all sorts of privacy issues.”
Considering how I had just 10 minutes earlier witnessed a man having to go through the metal detector about five times, each time removing more and more clothing, I had to admit my son was right. Airports are this strange place where we really want to feel secure so we’re willing to give up virtually all our privacy. It’s that old trade-off that Ann Cavoukian hated: giving up privacy for security. If she reads this, she’ll be incensed, but I think even she would admit that this trade-off still continues to happen despite our best efforts at win-win situations.
The situation at the airport and the story below about the Canada Border Services Agency gathering more information about Canadians exiting the country have a similar thread. When we travel, we give up our privacy. Our government knows this. In fact, they require it from us if we want the freedom to travel. But read on about the new CBSA program, and let me know if you think the government has gone too far. Apparently, they have done a privacy impact assessment, and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has been made aware. Does that alone give you comfort that this new collection of personal information is warranted? Sounds like they want to do some pretty interesting law enforcement activity with it, like catching people who are cheating a benefits program or who might be trying to avoid customs duties. I’m not arguing against catching bad guys, but does that mean we ALL have to be subject to covert and pretty widespread surveillance? In the book “1984,” they had virtually no crime. Ultimately, the message of that book was that this is not the ideal either. Maybe it’s time we all read the story again?
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