Canadian Privacy Commissioner Worried About Drones Patrolling the Border, Too Much U.S. Influence


Most of us have had enough of "czars" here in the U.S., thanks in particular to the Obama administration. Still, it's vaguely a nice idea that Canada has a "Privacy Czar." And instead of the grand Orwellian tradition of being, say, very keen on violating everyone's rights, Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart is worried about the possibility of drones patrolling the border between the U.S. and Canada.

On the occasion of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, U.S. President Barack Obama, and Mexican President Felipe Calderon's meeting at the White House (where the discussed all sorts of things, including loosening trade restrictions between the three nations), Stoddart told the Ottawa Globe and Mail that these meetings have her concerned about about the relationship between the U.S. and Canada if drones are brought into it:

  "… It's another technology that has the potential to be very privacy invasive. These drones could be going back and forth across the border and no one would notice."

Stoddart is not just casually worried; Harper and Obama have a plan to coordinate border security which they announced in December as the Beyond the Border initiative. And of course there are already nine drones patrolling the border with Mexico, since the age of the drone is generally upon us (or will be made official by September 2015).

According to the Huffington Post Canada, Stoddart is also worried about Canadian citizens having their information shared with U.S. authorities:

"In the past, informal sharing has led to some real problems in Canada, so we want to make sure that the extent and the amount of information that is shared is subject to formal written agreement," she said.

Referencing the case of Maher Arar, the Syrian Canadian who was detained in the U.S. and sent to Syria where he was tortured after the RCMP passed unchecked information to American authorities, Stoddart said Canadians need a clear recourse if they suspect incorrect information about them has been passed along to the Americans.

"With shared information on travellers, if there are problems on the U.S. side, it is not really clear how Canadians can really access the American system where formal rights are only given to American citizens and to American residents, and there is no privacy commissioner," she said.

Stoddart also mentioned the U.S. terrorist watchlist as a danger, saying that on the Canadian side of things there should be "efficient and rapid redress of that problem" of names being incorrectly on that list. She sound slike she would prefer not to share sensitive information about Canadian citizens with the U.S.. 

Obviously a strong government is not the solution to preventing privacy violations by that same government, but it seems like Stoddart is at least making an effort to try to let her country figure it out for themselves and not get 100 percent drawn into the U.S.'s exhausting, endless fight against its many supposed enemies.

Reason on drones and on privacy