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Who wants to know?

You’ve got to be kidding

I know privacy is an issue for most of us, especially those with things to hide, but it appears recently, the Canadian Government is into the ‘Let’s share your details’ policy.

In 2012 both Canada and the U.S. started sharing privacy information at border crossings. Initially, it was only data on third-country nationals and permanent legal residents and only at four major crossings. Over the past seven years, however, the process has been ramped up to include all border entry points.

A new phase of the border agreement between the two nations has been implemented and includes some interesting details. The two countries are now sharing information on everyone, regardless of nationality, birthplace or race. The information collected includes passport details, travel documents and most important, biographical data, which includes, full names, date of birth and gender information.

These recent changes are as a result of the ‘Beyond the Border Action Plan’, an agreement established in 2011. According to Homeland Security (in the U.S.), the purpose is to better identify ‘bad’ people. They are defined by people who overstay the legal presence, to keep a closer eye on anyone who has been booted out of a country, and to verify that all residency requirements are being met.

Okay, so is this a bad thing you ask? Well, last year, Canada’s privacy watchdog, Daniel Therrien, flagged some concerns about the initiative. In an address to the House of Commons, he said, “We still have concerns over issues such as retention periods applicable to data collected from travelers, and the risk that data collected for border purposes is then used for secondary purposes.”

I am not sure what those secondary purposes are, and of course, we know nothing would ever leak out of the government’s vaults, but can you imagine a database with names, addresses, genders, passport info, etc., available to some hacker, or another government agency. Wow!

Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favour of stopping naughty people from coming into Canada, but I am hesitant in sharing information with another country, especially given the recent past history of the U.S. Maybe ask your representative, prior to the election what he or she thinks, and perhaps they will shed more light on the subject.

Of course, the biggest opposition to privacy concerns tends to come from people who post their entire life story on Facebook and Instagram. Let me know your thoughts.

Jonathan van Bilsen is a published author, an award-winning photographer, columnist and keynote speaker. Follow his adventures at

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