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    Calgary Herald (Canada): Privacy goes missing with Alberta’s new Missing Persons Act: critics

    The Calgary Herald reports that there are privacy concerns with a new law about missing persons in Alberta, Canada:

    A new law that came into effect Friday giving Alberta police easier access to personal records when investigating missing persons cases is being touted as a potential lifesaver by the provincial government.

    But critics say that however well-intentioned the Missing Persons Act is, it presents real dangers to privacy and, possibly, personal safety.

    The legislation, introduced more than a year ago, allows police in a missing person case to seek an order from a justice of the peace to search personal information, such as cellphone and computer records, employment, education and health files, closed circuit television records and financial histories.

    In emergency situations, police can also make a written demand for information without going to the courts.

    Justice Minister Jonathan Denis said Friday the law’s major impact is that police can now access information even if there is no reason to think a crime has been committed. […]

    But Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman said she’s horrified by how much personal information the government is allowing police to collect under the law.

    She said giving a justice of the peace the leeway to determine access to banking, credit card and loan documents – along with cellphone records and a person’s Internet browsing history – is too significant an invasion of privacy. […]

    Brian Seaman, a research associate with the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre, said there was little justification for the act, which he called “far too sweeping.”

    Jan Reimer, executive director of the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters, said abusers often use the tactic of reporting their partners as missing, even when they know their spouse has fled to a family member’s house or a shelter.

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