There was an interesting piece in the Ottawa Citizen this week in which a university professor who teaches statistical analysis at the University of Waterloo argues against Statistics Canada having more legally enforceable powers to compel the disclosure of personal information.
I have to admit that I’m right on the fence with this one. For one thing, I understand the importance of information to government that makes policy and programs for the entire country. The information our government has should be complete, up-to-date and as accurate as possible. If we’re going to ask our government to make good policy and deliver good programs, then we shouldn’t tell them that they have to do so with one hand tied behind their back. They need our information.
On the other hand, the questions they want to ask (and do ask) require you to reveal some pretty intimate and personal details. Should we not be able to control who asks for this and say “no thanks” if we find their questions simply too invasive?
And, for me, the big thing — as it is with most all of privacy law — is that it comes down to trust. Many of us provide Google and Facebook with much more revealing information about ourselves in order for those companies to provide us with free services and for us to be served targeted advertising. It’s not a particularly altruistic motive when compared to a democratic government trying to make policy and deliver programs to its people. But, for those of us who do use Google and Facebook, I think we do it because of a certain degree of trust.
Interesting that it appears to be difficult for the government to achieve a similar level of trust.
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