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CANADIAN GOVERNMENT HAS PROFILES OF 30 MILLION CITIZENS

Privacy Commissioner of Canada Releases 1999-2000 Annual Report

Source: ZD Net

Posted on May 26, 2000

      The 1999-2000 Annual Report tabled by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada warns that efforts to assemble personal data from several federal agencies have resulted in the creation of profiles on more than 30 million Canadians.

      The Commissioner's Office has voiced its concerns over the Longitudinal Labour Force File developed by the Strategic Policy Branch of Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) before. The Long File is used for research, evaluation, program and policy analysis, and draws data from a variety of sources: income tax returns, child tax benefits, immigration and visitors files, provincial and municipal welfare files, national training programs, employment services and the social insurance Master file.

      The Commissioner believes the agency has not taken adequate steps to comply with the Privacy Act, even while the department entertains plans to expand the database.

      "Successive Privacy Commissioners have assured Canadians that there was no single federal government file, or profile about them. We were wrong -- or not right enough for comfort."

      The Commissioner's report also criticizes the government's decision to release census records from the early 20th century, calls for legislation to restrict the use of the Social Insurance Number (SIN) as an identifier for government services and argues that privacy should be the cornerstone of electronic health networks.

      The Commissioner warns that the list of "need to know" recipients of personal health information was growing to include bureaucrats, researchers, insurance and pharmaceutical companies. The report cites a recent survey by the Canadian Medical Association that found 51 percent of Canadians would not agree to the release of personal health information, even when identifying information was removed. May 19, 2000.

      A copy of the Privacy Commissioner's annual report may be found at: http://www.privcom.gc.ca/english/02_04_08_e.htm




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