#CyberFLASH: Ottawa has little regard for protecting privacy rights when it comes to national security

1297658073661_ORIGINALOTTAWA — The federal government has scant regard for privacy rights when it comes to national security, according to the federal privacy commissioner’s new annual report.

Tabled in Parliament Tuesday, it reveals:

• Only two of the 17 departments and agencies with power collect personal information from other federal entities under the new Security of Canada Information Sharing Act (SCISA) believe privacy impact assessments (PIAs) are necessary. The assessments are designed ensure privacy protection is a core consideration and are required under government policy for any new or substantially modified government programs and activities involving personal information.

The act, created under the Anti-terrorism Act of 2015, formerly Bill C-51, allows 111 departments and agencies to share information, including citizens’ personal data, with 17 departments with national security responsibilities. The information must be “relevant” to the recipient’s jurisdiction in relation to “activities that undermine the security of Canada.” The intent is to persuade bureaucrats to share information so authorities can better connect the “dots” of potential national security threats.

The act has been used 110 times between Aug. 1, 2015, when it became law, and Jan. 31, by the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA), RCMP, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and Global Affairs Canada.

When privacy concerns about SCISA were raised last spring as C-51 made its way through Parliament, then-public safety minister Steven Blaney attempted to placate critics by insisting PIAs would be the norm.

• Thirteen of the 17 departments and agencies with national security responsibilities collected or shared information under “very broad” pre-existing legal authorities, including common law, because the Conservative government did not create detailed new legal authorities spelling out permitted collection and disclosure of information for national security.

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