Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Server in the Sky"

"Server in the Sky" is the FBI's proposed database sharing 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 - style themselves, will meet behind closed doors in May in San Francisco to plan their strategy. They do not hold press conferences.

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 The Guardian. 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.

Privacy Commissioner Stoddart agrees and firmly 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".

She also makes this biting point at the blog at the Office of the Privacy Commisssioner of Canada :
"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."

All hail Ms Stoddart! Stellar job you're doing over there.

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.

Cross-posted at Creekside

No comments: