The federal bureaucracy’s reliance on wireless technology, including BlackBerries and WiFi networks, is jeopardizing the confidentiality of the personal information that Canadians entrust to the government.
The annual report of Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, released Tuesday, included an audit of five federal departments responsible for storing many details of the lives of private citizens. Ms. Stoddart found that none has fully assessed the threats posed by wireless communication.
Her report says government employees are not required to safeguard information when they use cellphones and other wireless devices, nor are most of them instructed on the best ways of doing so. […]
Even in cases where formal procedures have been developed to protect information, those rules are sometimes ignored.
Ms. Stoddart’s office found that more than four in 10 of the surplus computers donated by the government to schools had not been wiped clean of information, some of which was highly sensitive and even classified. […]
Avner Levin, the director of the Privacy and Cyber Crime Institute at Ryerson University in Toronto, said the world is at the beginning of a learning curve in its use of both the Internet and mobile platforms.
“I expect that, with time, everyone, government included, will grow better at managing these platforms,” Dr. Levin said. “At the same time, we are experiencing a major change in the way our data are stored and managed. And our legislation, and the Privacy Act in particular, written for the mainframes and databases of 30 years ago, are ill-equipped to protect us and to guide government.”