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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How (not) to protect Canadians' private health information

The , which comes to Montreal from September 25 to 28, will play host to US Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, pictured below, who will appear as a guest speaker at the gathering of data-privacy officers. He makes a rather odd choice for a speaker at such a conference, given his own views on information privacy.

The USA Patriot Act, which he co-wrote in 2002, permits the US government to , , and -- all without proving probable cause and obtaining a court-issued warrant first. The US-based Medical Library Association has .

Canadians' medical records may be at risk, too. Where Canadian medical record-keeping is outsourced to American companies -- as it has already been in BC with the US company Maximus (see , , and especially , and read the BC privacy commissioner's analysis ), for instance -- it could be argued that those records will fall under the provisions of the Patriot Act.

In some cases, however, Mr Chertoff has instead been a vigorous defender of information privacy -- such as when he to divulge details about conversations he may or may not have had with the CIA about the legality of various torture methods (which he also refused to discuss) when he testified before the Senate in 2005.

It will be very, very interesting to find out what Mr Chertoff has to contribute to this kind of conference.


*Update, October 2: Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law, . The title of Geist's article gives you a hint as to his assessment of Chertoff's views: "The End of Privacy?"

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