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« September 2005 | Main | November 2005 »

Secret tiny dots link print-outs to users

posted by:Mohamed Layouni // 01:05 PM // October 26, 2005 // TechLife

A research team led by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recently broke the code behind tiny tracking dots that some color laser printers secretly hide in every document.

The U.S. Secret Service admitted that the tracking information is part of a deal struck with selected color laser printer manufacturers, ostensibly to identify counterfeiters. However, the nature of the private information encoded in each document was not previously known.

The full Article can be found here.
For information on how to see and decode the dots, see this guide.

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Privacy, Anonymity and Public Spaces: What is going On?

posted by:Thomas B. Riley // 08:43 PM // October 25, 2005 // ID TRAIL MIX

We are experiencing significant cultural change in societies around the world due to the increasing number of new information and communication technologies coming into the marketplace. These innovations are altering the way we communicate and interact with each other in public spaces. These changes could have significant impacts on our understanding of privacy and the ability to remain anonymous.

A search of the Internet illustrates the rise of technologies that protect the anonymity of individuals. These technologies are not just about protecting privacy but guarding individuals from having their data stolen or from having their activities tracked on the Internet. Such software capabilities provide the ability to stop hackers from getting access to our online transactions that can include emails we send, sites we visit for research purposes or whatever it is we are looking for on the Internet.

The evolution of wireless technologies creates even deeper problems as without sufficient firewalls or security enhancements in place, it is possible for an individual to use another person’s computer or for an outside user to latch on to your computer and either use your computer hookup for themselves or, the worse case scenario, steal data. The possibilities of harm being inflicted are broad. The issue is paramount now because of the rise of the problem of identity theft though a recent study by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario found that 70% of personal information stolen by identity thieves has been offline.

The fact is that our new technologies have brought many challenges to our personal privacy and to desire to remain anonymous in an online world. But as with all new developments in the evolution of societies throughout history every innovation that moves the society forward also contains within it the contradiction of an equal evolution that has deleterious effects on society. One of the most obvious examples in the age of transportation is the possibility of diseases and pandemics to be rapidly transmitted around the world.

Privacy is now facing a new type of contradiction. In the past few decades many countries have embraced the right of privacy of individuals as a human right. The development of fair information practices, independent commissioners to oversee the laws and the right to redress by the individual if there is a perceived privacy violation, has resulted in a strong privacy ethnic in many societies. While individuals on the whole are not necessarily versed in the depth and mechanics of privacy laws many people are aware that they have the right of privacy and the right of a private space, if they so choose. The right of privacy, security and confidentiality in our society and in our legal system is strong. However, there is something that needs to be considered in the privacy mix and that is the cultural changes ongoing in our society.

Technologies over the past decade have become very intrusive and have radically changed the way we communicate. The most obvious example is the cell phone. Another one is the emergence of digital cameras. These two technologies alone are what I would call “privacy busters”. Walking down the street recently, I observed an individual busy with his digital camera taking pictures – perhaps, for posting on the Internet? He was not going around asking permission to use the pictures and who knows where these pictures ended up? Obtrusive surveillance cameras, secret videotaping of someone else in their home or placing cameras in public spaces, such as washrooms, to record people’s private activities, are widespread. Many such violations of people’s physical privacy have ended up in the media or the courts.

However, there is now a new phenomenon of people wanting their privacy on one hand but becoming increasingly visible and comfortable in sharing personal information in public. This move from private to public space is as a result of the ever-growing sophisticated communication technologies. Not too long ago I was on a train in England traveling from London to Oxford. There were dozens of passengers (literally) engaged in exchanging conversations on mobile phones and, in the process, letting out any amount of personal information – including where one was going (address), or the number of a land line phone the individual could be reached at. Another man was busy giving out the address of a friend. Across from me was a businessman busy talking on his mobile and transmitting all manner of information about his business. His laptop was open and running plugged into another mobile allowing him to transmit information back to his office – all of which I could see.

This phenomenon in the UK is partly because of the large number of people who commute to London or other destinations for their work. In fact, there has been so much chatter on the trains a public debate has arisen about how this can be curtailed.

The issue of communicating in public is probably not going to be changed anytime soon as people have adapted to this technology and find it convenient and useful for what are their individual purposes. For example, a recent survey has shown that 71 percent of the 108 million households in the United States have at least one cell phone.

The abundance of cell phones is just as evident here in Canada. And the number of phones coming on the market will grow and change. Already, cell phones are no longer just an extension of the landline telephone. Now phones are combined to have many functions, like the Blackberry. It is a cell phone, an Internet access tool, email facility, voice box utility for voice mail messages and text messaging. The enhancements will grow as we become, literally, integrated with these new technologies.

New technologies bring new social mores and behavioral patterns. There have already been many articles, studies and academic papers on the pressures now put on the worker who is now, through these technologies, on the job almost 24 hours a day. Gone are the days when you could turn off your phone at night or conveniently forget to leave a phone number with the office when you went off on a two or three week holiday of rest and relaxation. Now you can be reached in the comfort of your cottage, at the helm of your sailboat or on the shores of that northern river that is a favourite fishing spot. You may want to turn off you cell off but then you just might miss that one important phone call; or you might want to call someone and when booting up the phone, the messages will come in. Our space is shrinking in the networked world as we become attached to the invisible networks that are bringing more stress than we want to acknowledge.

The technologies are attached to us in inextricable ways though many people also choose not to buy into the phenomenon. But it is very hard now as the pressures of society demand you be online or connected. For example, I myself only give out my cell phone number to a few people, families and very close friends. I also don’t use it for web access or send text messages. However, the likelihood of my falling prey to these new technologies is strong as the pressure to be “connected” or “networked” is strong. I definitely am connected to my computer and constantly running to get to my terminal to see the latest message, do some research or check out the buzz on the latest listservs to which I subscribe. One caveat to this scenario of “connectivity” is that there are about 25% of Canadians who do not have Internet access at home nor do they have the connectivity many of us take for granted.

People impose their conversations on us whether we like it or not – and they spew out their most private details in very public spaces. We don’t want to hear people’s cell phone conversations or the beep of their blackberry that a message has come in. It seems that people believe when they are on a mobile or cell phone he or she has created a private bubble that protects them from the outside world yet that is a pre-conceived notion which anyone listening in knows is false. It is an extension of the early phenomenon of the party line pre-1960’s before we all got private, individual lines for our homes. In the times of the party line it was understood that when the phone rang (and usually there was a distinctive ring for the party the person was looking for) if it was not for you, you did not pick your own phone receiver up. On the whole, the protocol was observed but teenagers would often breach the protocol, as would some local gossips wanting to know all the juicy details of what was going on in other people’s lives. Yet, on the whole, people respected others private conversations. The expectation of the person on the party line was that another was not listening but in fact many people were surreptitiously listening in. This new phenomenon is an extension of the concept of the party line and people seem to believe no one is listening.

This technological change has brought with it not just social change but emotional problems and stress with having to be so connected. But the social issues of how technologies are impacting us emotionally, is for another article. In terms of anonymity while many prefer to protect their personal privacy there are increasingly more people bringing their private lives out into public spaces. Chatting on a cell phone in public for all to hear is invading the space of the people who are in hearing range.

Yet, in this new concept of taking up public space, people are listening to these cell phone conversations whether they like it or not. This is increasingly considered to be a rude activity but the practice continues. Also, individuals giving out all manner of details about their lives and what is going on at the moment are at risk of giving out personal details that could be picked up by someone who might have good use for it. Our personal details can be captured in many different forms because of the increasing number of technologies that can capture data and conversations. This issue of public conversation is a serious one. A recent poll by market research company Synovate found that 70 percent of 1,000 respondents observed manner-less technology use in others at least on a daily basis.

This new phenomenon of carrying on private conversations in public spaces is not just about manners and rudeness, as repugnant as it might be. This is more about changing attitudes that has resulted in the new contradictions in our society. One where individuals inherently understand that their privacy, security and confidentiality is important in their lives but are willing to take their lives out into public spaces and have them open to whoever is listening or walking by. In the past, phone conversations were private in confined spaces, such as the home or the office. Now people, having adapted the technology, have willingly taken themselves out into public spaces and opened up their lives to strangers. People do get upset with loud conversations in public or with the phenomenon called “yell cell” but I think this is a phenomenon that will increasingly become a part of our lives.

This form of privacy is well beyond the paper and digital world of the passing Information Age. In the Networked Age new protocols are needed to address the issue. The solution is education about how to protect one’s privacy but still utilize the benefits that the new technologies can bring. This is not just a job for privacy commissioners. Many offices in Canada and across the world have made comments on the new technologies and suggested best practices for individuals and groups to protect their privacy. But a wider effort is needed. Perhaps, it is time for the whole issue of privacy to get onto the educational agenda. Privacy values could become part of civics lessons in schools at the primary and secondary levels. Whatever the approach we need solutions to bring the concept of privacy into the emerging generation of the continuous online, networked people.

We cannot simply leave this new form of education to privacy commissioners and the few academics that care about privacy. We need mechanisms to make this a public issue. We need to take this out of the realm of the small domain of privacy advocates and practitioners into the wider public domain – or more succinctly, into the public spaces where our private lives are increasingly going.

Thomas B. Riley, located in Ottawa, is the Executive Director of the Commonwealth Centre for e-Governance
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The Question of Ethics in Information Technology Research

posted by:Angela Long // 11:10 PM // October 18, 2005 // ID TRAIL MIX

On Friday October 14, 2005, the Globe and Mail posted an article from the New York Times News Service entitled “Korea’s High-Tech Utopia, Where Everything is Observed”. The piece describes a city being built from the ground up in South Korea, which is being touted as the world’s first ubiquitous city (U-City). New Songdo, an island, is not far from Seoul, South Korea’s capital. It is financially backed by large corporations and, unlike other attempts to create U-Cities, is a for-profit venture. The infrastructure of the city will be created by Songdo U-Life, a partnership of powerful American and Korean corporate interests, including mega-corporation LG. Other businesses will then be able to test their technologies in the city without having to spend money on costly infrastructure set-up. These technologies will contribute to the U-Life-style that is being marketed. All information systems within the city will share data with one another. In addition, the technology will potentially be able to monitor any and all kinds of citizen activity. The possibilities, given the chance for profit, are almost limitless. For instance, the article states:

Imagine public recycling bins that use radio-frequency identification technology to credit recyclers every time they toss in a bottle; pressure-sensitive floors in the homes of older people that can detect the impact of a fall and immediately contact help; cellphones that store health records and can be used to pay for prescriptions.

In addition to data sharing, citizen convenience is key. Each resident will get their own smart-card, which will allow them to do almost anything within the city, from unlocking their house to riding the subway or seeing a movie.

New Songdo is scheduled for completion in 2014. The city will be home to approximately 65,000 people and 300,000 will work there. Life there will be full of creature comforts, with top-notch amenities and attractions such as parklands, an aquarium, a golf course and American style hospitals and schools. As the title of the article states, New Songdo sounds like a utopia of sorts, where convenience and comfort are key. But is it really?

The New Songdo U-City project can be criticized for many things, such as the lack of privacy that citizens will have with technology tracing their every move or the lack of anonymity that they will have to become accustomed to living in a city where information is shared widely by all sectors. However, as the article states, people are already lining up to move to New Songdo once it becomes operational. If they know what they are in for and move there voluntarily, does this change our view of the privacy concerns raised by the city? Some may argue that those who chose to live in New Songdo have consented to the use of surveillance technology and ubiquitous computing. But this raises a different set of concerns, concerns about the validity of such consent from an ethical perspective. Do they actually know what they are signing up for?

Looking at the issue this way likens it to a research ethics problem, the kind we see all the time in medicine. Just as the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries test their products on human subjects, so will the information technology companies in New Songdo. Put this way, the future residents of New Songdo are being used as human guinea pigs in this vast technological project, a project with undetermined scope and outcome. Indeed, B.J. Fogg, the Director of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University was quoted in the article as stating, “New Songdo sounds like it will be one big Petri dish for understanding how people want to use technology.” If one is to look at New Songdo as an experiment involving the citizens who live and work there, perhaps the better question to ask is whether, ethically, they can be used for such a purpose and whether the project itself is in line with research ethics standards. Traditionally questions about the ethicality of using human subjects for research in the field of information technology have received little attention compared to the field of medical technology, where systems of ethical approval and monitoring have been long-standing. But with the explosion of new information technologies, proposed large-scale experiments such as that of New Songdo and all of the risks that such technologies pose to humans, research ethics ought to figure more prominently in public debates.

A familiar starting point for research ethics in the medical context is the principle of informed consent, meaning that those being subjected to the research must be informed of the potential risks and benefits of the experiment and must provide their consent based on such knowledge. Without the informed consent of the human subjects involved, the research is not considered ethical. It is not clear whether the question of informed consent has been considered by those creating New Songdo. Looking at the official New Songdo website, it would appear that choosing to live in New Songdo would be the wisest choice one could ever make. A promotional movie extols the virtues life in the city in a Hollywood fashion; booming business, golf, foreign schools, shopping and health care. Disturbingly, however, no mention is made of the attendant risks that the project brings to those subjected to it, such as the constant surveillance or gathering and large-scale sharing of personal information. Without such disclosure, residents cannot be said to consent to the use of these technologies and as such the research itself is not ethical.

Informed consent is not the only ethical principle that would be implicated in information technology research. Looking at Canada’s Tri-Council Policy Statement on Research Involving Human Subjects (TCPS), which is representative of the kinds of ethical principles that are in place worldwide, it is easy to see that many of the principles contained therein are relevant to information technology, such as respect for personal privacy and autonomy and the avoidance of conflicts of interest. In a for-profit venture such as New Songdo, financial conflicts of interest seem inevitable and require greater scrutiny to protect the interests of the research subjects who are being utilized as a medium for financial gain.

The need for ethical guidance and standards in the field of information technology is slowly gaining recognition. In Canada, the National Research Council’s Institute for Information Technology is studying research ethics in the context of human-computer interactions, as current guidelines, such as the TCPS, do not adequately cover this kind of research. Interestingly, the NRC stated that other countries, such as the US and Australia already have guidelines covering human subject research in the context of information technology. Given the existence of such guidelines in the US, it becomes clear why the New Songdo experiment, with heavy US financial backing and technological expertise, is taking place in South Korea and not in the US itself. Simply put, ethical guidelines governing this kind of research in the US would likely make the implementation of an experiment of this magnitude exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, an obstacle that was implied by the article:

Much of this technology was developed in U.S. research labs, but there are fewer social and regulatory obstacles to implementing them in Korea…There is an historical expectation of less privacy.

The practice of taking research off-shore in order to avoid compliance with ethical standards in one’s own jurisdiction is common within medical research, most notably within the pharmaceutical industry. The practice of forum shopping in the pharmaceutical context has led to increased pressure to internationalize ethical standards so that all human research subjects will receive the same protection, regardless of their jurisdiction.

The parallels between the information technology research in New Songdo and medical research, such as within the pharmaceutical industry are strong; both involve human subjects; both are motivated by monetary profit; both involve the risk of significant harm, even though the kinds of harm may be different (ie. the biggest risks in medical research tend to be health and safety related, while those within information technology research tend to be privacy and security related). In addition, we also see the information technology industry taking a similar road as the medical technology industry, in moving their research out of jurisdictions with ethical hurdles that would be impossible to jump. These parallels highlight the need for increased research ethics scrutiny within information technology research and for the establishment of clear international ethical guidelines that would project the interests of human subjects involved.

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Contours Programme Is Now Up!

posted by:David Matheson // 01:24 PM // October 17, 2005 // Walking On the Identity Trail

The programme for our upcoming Contours of Privacy conference (November 5 and 6) is now on-line. You can download it here.

We're very excited about the range of diverse perspectives that will be brought by our speakers, who include:

Ian Kerr, University of Ottawa
Jacquelyn Burkell, University of Western Ontario
Alessandro Acquisti, Carnegie Mellon University
Krista Boa, University of Toronto
Stephen Margulis, Grand Valley State University
Krystal Kreye, University of Victoria
Mariam Thalos, University of Utah
Travis Dumsday, University of Waterloo
Lysiane Gagnon, La Presse and The Globe and Mail
Michael Zimmer, New York University
Alan Borovoy, Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Robert Ellis Smith, Privacy Journal
Hugh Hunter, University of British Columbia
Catarina Frois, University of Lisbon
Aritha Van Herk, University of Calgary

You don't want to miss this event! And, happily, there's still time to register. For more information please visit the conference Website.

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Anonymous browsing: Will it survive lawful access initiatives?

posted by:Carole Lucock // 08:11 PM // October 11, 2005 // ID TRAIL MIX

The use of anonymous browsers and remailers are actively recommended to protect privacy when surfing the Internet. Such advice can be found on the Privacy Commission of Canada website. This advice to the general public suggests that there is reason to be concerned about privacy on the net and that there are means to protect it.

An innovative solution to providing anonymous browsing is TOR, which is “a decentralized network of computers on the Internet that increases privacy in Web browsing, instant messaging, and other applications. TOR estimate there are some 30,000 TOR users currently, routing their traffic through about 200 volunteer TOR servers on five continents. TOR solves three important privacy problems: it prevents websites and other services from learning a users location; it prevents eavesdroppers from learning what information a user is fetching and where it’s fetched from; and it routes a users connection through multiple TOR servers so no single server can learn what a user is up to. TOR also enables hidden services, letting a user run a website without revealing its location to others.” TOR actively seeks volunteer participation to broaden its network of servers and encourages the donation of “time and/or bandwidth to help make the TOR network more diverse and thus more secure.”

Initiatives like those of TOR are at risk as Canada takes measures to curtail the capacity to be anonymous on the Internet. The recent announcement that Canada will introduce lawful access legislation has been criticized on a number of grounds that continue along similar lines to those received by the government in response to its 2002 consultation document. Although legislation has not been tabled, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has commented on the proposals based on briefings provided by the Department of Justice and other government departments and agencies. The Commissioner notes the failure to demonstrate a serious problem or to provide evidence that enhanced surveillance powers are necessary.

Like others, the Commissioner has raised concerns on a number of grounds. The Commissioner decries the erosion of limits on government to obtain information from the public sector and in consequence the “blurring of the distinction between the public and private sectors and, in effect, deputizing the business community.” She raises concerns about compelling interception capability and access to subscriber data without a warrant, which would include the provision of a subscriber’s dynamic IP address or the subscriber’s name. She also raises numerous concerns about proposals for preservation orders, production orders and the interception of e-mail and notes the lack of judicial oversight in some instances and the lower threshold for using such new powers in others. The Commissioner draws parallels between the proposed measures and the Anti-Terrorism Act, which in her view “gave overly broad surveillance powers to security and intelligence and law enforcement agencies while unduly weakening the constraints on the use of those powers and reducing accountability and transparency.” She asks pointedly, “whether the gain in security justifies the sacrifices of privacy and other rights?”

Initiatives like those of TOR seek to enhance privacy on the Internet and provide a concrete solution to consumers who are advised to make use of anonymous browsers to protect their privacy. As Canada and other countries introduce measures that enhance surveillance capacity it appears that the effectiveness of initiatives like TOR will be diminished. In which case it will be important to be very clear to those who rely on advice concerning how to protect their on-line privacy that the means to protect it are similarly diminished. At a minimum, Canadians should be under no illusion about what can reasonably be expected concerning their Internet use and if the ability to be truly anonymous is unavailable then this should be made patently clear in any advice given concerning the protection of privacy.

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Delaware Supreme Court Protects Anonymous Blogger

posted by:Ian Kerr // 10:28 AM // October 08, 2005 // Digital Democracy: law, policy and politics

a couple of days ago, the delaware supreme court had to decide whether to unmask an anonymous blogger for the purposes of a defamation lawsuit. the allegation in the case was that the anonymous blogger (aka "Proud Citizen") posted two blog posts discussing a member of the Smyrna Town Council, referring to his "character flaws," "mental deterioration," and "failed leadership..."

as a new york times article and other news articles have reported, the court decided to maintain the anonymity of the blogger.

in refusing to unmask the blogger's identity, the court reiterated the approach generally adopted by US Courts in such cases, which involves a much stricter standard than the one applied by canadian courts.

first, the plaintiff must make reasonable efforts to notify the defendant. second, the plaintiff needs to provide facts sufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion (often this is expressed in the language of demonstrating a prima facie case, i.e., that there is enough evidence to show the court that the case is strong enough to proceed to trial).

in the delaware case, the court held that the plaintiffs had not shown that statements made by Proud Citizen met this test, in large part because the statements were likely to be seen by the internet audience as statements of opinion -- which would therefore not constitute defamation for the purposes of US law.

it is interesting to compare the US approach to the one adopted by canada's federal court of appeal in bmg v doe.

although there was no good evidence that the anonymous defendants had done anything illegal (in fact, the appeal was dismissed on that basis), canada's federal court of appeal was persuaded by the canadian recording industry association not to adopt the well known prima facie standard.

it is interesting that canada's recording industry wants us to follow the US approach when it comes to copyright law but has, at the same time, fought so hard against adopting the US's procedural safeguards when it comes to protecting the identities of persons who are merely alleged to have enagaged in some kind of wrongdoing.

i suspect that canadian courts will likely revisit this issue in a future online defamation case and i predict that the courts will realize that the procedural standard in bmg v doe is incorrect.

if this is plausible, it might be worth asking why the court refused to apply the appropriate standard in the copyright context.

do actions for breach of copyright truly justify a different standard for unmasking defendants, or did the music industry's camapaign against file-sharing somehow cloud the issue?

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Smart Borders: A wholesale information sharing and surveillance regime

posted by:Krista Boa // 09:44 PM // October 04, 2005 // ID TRAIL MIX

A number of recent events got me thinking yet again about the increasing collection and use of personal information in the name of national security. This summer the Ministry of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Ministry of Transport announced Canada would create a no fly list and examine ways to automate passenger risk assessment. The BC Civil Liberties Association then made public statements against Canada’s creation of a no fly list in an open letter and position paper, as did the federal Privacy Commissioner. Reviewing these documents, I grew frustrated yet again by the secrecy inherent to these information and identification based security and surveillance initiatives, particularly with respect to the type, quantity, and source information gathered, and the criteria used to determine whether an individual is a security threat.

The privacy and civil liberties issues raised by no fly lists necessarily led me to think about the broader context, the national security agenda in both Canada and the United States. To my mind, the Canada-US Smart Borders Declaration and Action Plan is a central, but rarely discussed component of Canada’s national security agenda.

The Canada-U.S. Smart Borders Declaration was announced jointly by both nations in December 2001. It is explicitly positions itself as a response to national security concerns raised by the World Trade Center attacks in September of that year, and lists and briefly describes four areas of cooperation: “1) secure flow of people, 2) secure flow of goods, 3) secure infrastructure, and 4) coordination and information sharing in the enforcement of these objectives”. The Declaration has now evolved into a 32-point Action Plan, the focus of which is an unprecedented level of information sharing (often of personal information), the development and integration of advanced technological systems to facilitate this, and the alignment of information, immigration, and security policies and practices. Action Plan Status Reports describing each country’s progress are periodically and jointly issued, generally toward the end of the calendar year. The most recent one was released in December 2004.

Smart Borders encompasses a range of individual and cooperative initiatives, including US-VISIT, biometric passports in both nations, automated passenger risk assessment, and no fly lists among many others, all of which put privacy rights at risk and increase the potential for mass surveillance exponentially in the name of increasing national security. While the Action Plan Status Reports and general government information (what little there is) about Smart Borders repeatedly state that information will be shared in compliance with the privacy laws of both countries, I am hard pressed to see how this works in practice. (The documents never specify any particular law(s), but imply they will comply with any and/or all laws.) Even if each component program can be made to fit the letter of the law, Smart Borders cannot, by its very magnitude, be made to fit the spirit of the law.

To my mind the Smart Borders agreement between Canada and the United States is one of the most all-encompassing and privacy-invasive initiatives to come out of the security and security technology agenda that emerged post 9/11. It is also one of the least publicized, and has yet to catch fire in its totality in the press or in public debate. Some components, such as no fly lists, national ID cards, and biometrics, have received some attention. These initiatives tend only to remain in the media and public consciousness for a short time before some new security-driven initiative putting privacy at risk or increasing surveillance takes over, one following another. It is too soon to tell whether sustained public debate will arise from last week’s statement by a spokesperson for the Passport Office that Canada would begin issuing biometric passports in the summer or fall 2006 or from the announcement earlier this summer regarding no fly lists and automated passenger risk assessment. Sustained attention to Smart Borders as an umbrella initiative, however, would reveal an agenda that systematically reduces privacy and increases surveillance.

The main problem in attempting to monitor the progress of Smart Borders is the dearth of information linking it with particular component initiatives; it is rarely clear which specific initiatives are part of the greater package. For instance, when plans for Canada’s biometric passport were initially presented last year, it was not positioned as part of the Smart Borders agreement, but as actions taken to comply with ICAO standards. However, according to the most recent Action Plan Status Report not only is the biometric passport itself part of the Smart Border Action Plan, so was lobbying and working with ICAO by both countries to develop an international biometric standard for travel documents. The result of this lobbying, the Action Plan Status Report proudly announces at Point #1, is the international acceptance of a facial biometric as the primary travel document biometric, and fingerprints and iris scans as secondary biometrics.

Concern about the Smart Border Action Plan would be much greater if specific initiatives, such as those listed above, could be understood within the context of the agreement and sustained public attention was trained on Smart Borders as a whole.

The risks to privacy and civil liberties inherent in the Canada-US Smart Borders program are more than the sum of its parts. It is an overall agenda to increase surveillance and information sharing between Canada and the United States. More attention needs to be given to Smart Borders Action Plan as a systematic program that is rapidly eroding privacy while increasing surveillance.

Krista Boa is a doctoral student at the Faculty of Information Studies, University of Toronto, and part of the SSHRC INE supported Digital Identity Constructions project.
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This is a SSHRC funded project:
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada