Monday, March 24, 2008

Canadians Organizations Fear U.S. Spying on Web-Based Collaboration Tools

Today's edition of the Globe and Mail newspaper features an article entitled Patriot Act haunts Google service that describes how the U.S. Patriot Act gives American security officials wide-ranging powers to snoop on personal data contained on servers held by U.S.-based organizations.

Like Google.

And that has been worrying many Canadian institutions such as universities that are having second thoughts about using Web-based collaborative tools offered by companies headquartered in that Great Republic south of the border:
"Security experts say many firms are only just starting to realize the risks they assume by embracing Web-based collaborative tools hosted by a U.S. company, a problem even more acute in Canada where federal privacy rules are at odds with U.S. security measures."

" 'You have to decide which law you are going to break,' said Darren Meister, associate professor of information systems at the Richard Ivey School of Business, who specializes in how technology enhances organizational effectiveness. 'If I were a business manager, I would want to be very careful about what kind of data I made accessible to U.S. law enforcement'. "

"Using their new powers under the Patriot Act, U.S. intelligence officials can scan documents, pick out certain words and create profiles of the authors - a frightening challenge to academic freedom..."


"The privacy issue goes far beyond academia. In Toronto, at SickKids Foundation, which has the largest endowment of any Canadian hospital, employees have been keen to use Google tools. But the foundation's IT department blocked access for two reasons."

" 'Wherever possible, we keep our donor and patient records in Canada, as trying to enforce privacy laws in other jurisdictions is complex and expensive,' said Chris Woodill, director of IT and new media at SickKids Foundation. Second, free hosted software offers limited support and no formal legal contract, limiting an organization's ability to demand additional privacy or security measures, he said."
Related Library Boy posts include:

  • Canadian Libraries Abandoning U.S.-Based Servers Because of Patriot Act (November 5, 2006): "It appears that Canadian academic libraries are worried that the American government will be able to snoop on the type of research Canadian professors and students conduct on databases stored on U.S. servers. So they are transferring to Canadian servers."
  • Canadian Libraries Hiding From U.S. Patriot Act (November 12, 2006): "Many Canadian university libraries are worried that U.S. authorities will be able to snoop on the type of research Canadian professors and students conduct through Refworks. Refworks is an online research management tool that allows people with a password - students and researchers - to gather, manage, store and share information, as well as generate citations and bibliographies. That information is normally kept on U.S. servers, which has led to fears that the Patriot Act could allow U.S. authorities to gain access to potentially sensitive information or even to benign information that could be misunterpreted by overzealous U.S. snoops (...) The institutions that have made the switch can still subscribe to Refworks, the only difference being that all personal information about the research patterns of their professors and students will now be stored on Canadian servers at the University of Toronto."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:05 pm


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