Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Server in the Sky

"Server in the Sky" is the FBI's proposed shared database of biometric information - our fingerprints, palm prints, and iris scan data - to be exchanged among the US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and eventually the EU, to catch criminals and terrorists. The International Information Consortium, as the five founding nations including Canada call themselves, will meet behind closed doors in May in San Francisco to plan their strategy.

Tom Bush, the FBI Assistant Director of the Criminal Justice Information Services Division was on CBC's The Current last week. "It's to catch the worst of the worst", he said, "murderers and rapists".
However an RCMP statement carried in the Globe and Mail instead placed greater importance on the sharing of "information on terrorist files".

Perhaps one of Server in the Sky's most alarming aspects is that Canada's Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, heard of it for the first time last week by reading about it in a UK newspaper. No Canadian officials had informed her of the project.

From The Guardian : "The FBI is proposing to establish three categories of suspects in the shared system :
  • "internationally recognised terrorists and felons",
  • those who are "major felons and suspected terrorists", and finally
  • those who the subjects of terrorist investigations or criminals with international links."
Suspected terrorists? Subjects of terrorist investigations?
A few paragraphs into the FBI's explanation and we're already into Maher Arar territory.
Stoddart agrees and says so on CBC's The Current.: Canada has a very weak 25 year old Privacy Act, she says, with no human rights standards built in to our agreements with other countries. Additionally she is alarmed by "the conflating of criminals and suspected terrorists", the lack of oversight of the biometric info once it passes to other countries, and the rise of "a survellance society".

Also, as Council of Canadians points out, despite Canadian horror at the grotesque misuse of intelligence data in the Arar case and the subsequent support for recommendations for greater paper-trail accountability, getting rid of any legal impediments to cross-border intelligence information-sharing was one of the primary security aims of, yes you guessed correctly, the SPP.

UPDATE : The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has a blog! :
"In terms of Canadian participation, our citizens rightfully expect that their personal information remains safeguarded and understandably, could be reluctant to see that information freely shared with two countries that were ranked near the bottom of Privacy International’s ratings of privacy protection around the world."
Go, Ms Stoddart!


West End Bob said...

One hopes that whomever follows Commissioner Stoddart into office is as efficient and vigilant as she appears to be . . . .

Jennifer Smith said...

I sure hope she's got her resume updated.

Anonymous said...

No kidding, eh?

"Server in the Sky" -- is that like Ceiling Cat? And there's a song, y'know: "Ghost Server in the Sky-eye."

The sneaks and snoops and backroom boys are really into being cute, aren't they? Dorks. *grrr*

Great post, Alison.

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