#CyberFLASH: Your tax info at heightened risk, experts say

163520649-1024x683Critics denounced the passing of the Anti-Terrorism Act in the House of Commons last week, saying the legislation will impede on Canadians’ freedom of expression and religion. With all the uproar, a key change in the Income Tax Act went largely unnoticed.

Under Bill C-51, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has been given permission to share your income tax filings with 13 additional government agencies.

Experts say this could render your personal financial information less secure than it already is in today’s electronic age.

Until now, the CRA has only had permission to share this information with three other agencies (CSIS, RCMP and FINTRAC) and only under very specific conditions. That list has grown to 16 in total and now includes Canada Border Services, the Canadian Armed Forces and Citizenship and Immigration among others.

The more people that have access to taxpayer information under Bill C-51, the higher the risk of leaks, hacks and other foul play, according to Avner Levin, the director of Ryerson University’s Privacy Institute.

The change in legislation is “unprecedented,” he says. “It’s snooping and meddling of the worst kind.”

Anyone who has filed their taxes in recent years should recall the little box asking whether they’re willing to share their home address with Elections Canada. This small request for consent served as a reminder that, to date, the government has been respectful of taxpayers’ privacy. But amendments to the Income Tax Act under Bill C-51 changes all that. The CRA can now share not only your home address, but all of your financial information within the government, without any form of consent or a warrant.

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