Author of Technocreep suggests Canadians be “Info-stingy”

by Jack Locke

I live in Westmount, Quebec. It’s a friendly sort of place, but sometimes it’s not. That’s why the city council has authorized an emergency notification system. But their CodeRED emergency notification program ought to raise a REDflag.

Once information travels to the US it is subject to laws such as the US Patriot Act,” says Thomas P. Keenan, author of the new book, Technocreep, the surrender of privacy and the capitalization of intimacy.

Westmount’s CodeRed program lets citizens sign up for the service by clicking on a link on the city’s website. Registants are then directed to the CodeRED website, whose company Emergency Communications Network is based in Ormond Beach, Florida. The company advises people who register that the information provided will become the property of the company.

This information will remain the property of ECN and will not be disclosed unless compelled to do so by a court of sufficient jurisdiction,” states ECN’s website. But it’s not that straightforward.

In an age of runaway technology, should Westmount direct its citizens to give their names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses to an American company in order to receive emergency communications?

In an email to Lockeblog, Keenan says there’s little protection for privacy once the data is given.

Clearly a US court could authorize access and based on Snowden revelations there is a decent chance the traffic could just be intercepted and saved by the NSA,” writes Keenan, who also teaches at the University of Calgary.

However, if the information were kept on the Canadian side of the border, Canadian law and privacy protection would be localized. Citizens would only have to worry about the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP poking into the database containing Westmount registrants’ information. While this alone is worrisome, transferring data stateside is rife with dangers.

Sometimes American intelligence authorities get the story wrong. A prime example is the case of Maher Arar, a dual Canadian/Syrian citizen who was detained by American authorities on the basis of information provided by the RCMP. In 2002, Arar was travelling from Montreal to Tunisia, with a stopover in New York. After being detained for two weeks, Arar was deported to Syria where he was tortured. Eventually, he was returned to Canada and awarded $10.5 million by the Canadian government for providing erroneous or prejudicial information to the Americans, and for the injuries he suffered as a result.

It’s why transferring Westmounters’ information to an American company—which may technocreep into the hands of American authorities—is not a great idea. Yet, having the information in the hands of local authorities may not be so great either.

In the current climate of war, terrorism, and absurd measures to protect national security, Canadians ought be concerned about where their private information is being held.

Any action against the person’s home would have to be carried out by Canadian law enforcement, e.g. RCMP.  I guess if they decided the house was an ISIS training facility they might beat down the door,” writes Keenan.

According to Keenan, Westmount citizens not wanting to share information with Americans could cloak their identity while still receiving CodeRED updates.

I tell people in the book to be info-stingy so I see no reasons why, if the purpose is to get an emergency alert, you could not give your name as I.P. Freely or Seymour Butts (i.e. not your real name,)” adds Keenan.

BLOGGER’S NOTE: A query to ECN was not answered prior to this post being uploaded.

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