Canada: Privacy Briefing - September 2004

Last Updated: September 23 2004

Edited by Michael Power


  • California Group Sues Albertson's Over Privacy Concerns
  • California: Schools Warned of Identity Theft
  • E.U.: Privacy International and EDRI Response to the Consultation on a Framework Decision on Data Retention
  • Newfoundland: Privacy Commissioner Position Now Part-Time
  • Zealand: Privacy Commissioner to Boost Technical Resources
  • Ontario: Police Share Digital Mugshots in Embrace of Biometrics
  • U.K.: Couple Banned from Opening Patio Doors for Privacy Reasons
  • U.S.: Bill Seeks Civil Liberties Board
  • U.S.: Chicago Announces Unified Camera Network
  • U.S.: Survey Indicates Relevant Banners Reduce User Ire

California Group Sues Albertson's Over Privacy Concerns

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a San Diego-based privacy advocacy group, has filed a lawsuit against supermarket chain Albertson's Inc. and its pharmacy units, SavOn, Osco and Jewel-Osco. The lawsuit, filed in California Superior Court in San Diego County, alleges that Albertson's violated the privacy rights of its pharmacy customers by illegally using their confidential information to conduct targeted marketing campaigns on behalf of large drug companies.

A spokeswoman for Boise, Idaho-based Albertson's called the allegations "false and totally without merit."

The lawsuit against Albertson's, announced September 9th, was originally filed in May. The announcement corresponds with the completion of service naming all the companies that participated with Albertson's in the marketing campaign, said Jeffrey Krinsk, a lawyer at San Diego-based Finkelstein & Krinsk, the law firm representing the PRC. Among those named as "co-conspirators" and "abettors" in the case are more than a dozen of the country's largest drug companies.

At issue is Albertson's alleged practice of sending targeted marketing messages from drug companies to its pharmacy customers using confidential information gathered during the prescription-filling process.

Full press report available at:

California: Schools Warned Of Identity Theft

California university officials have warned nearly 600,000 students and faculty that they might be exposed to identity theft following incidents where computer hard drives loaded with their private information were lost or hacked into.

Since January, at least 580,000 people who had personal information about them stored in university computers received warnings they might be at risk. The latest instance of missing equipment occurred in June at California State University, San Marcos.

A California law requiring people be notified when they might be exposed to identity theft took effect in July 2003. Officials say that might explain the rash of notices.

Full press report available at:

(Registration required)

E.U.: Privacy International And EDRI Response To The Consultation On A Framework Decision On Data Retention

This report is a response to the European Commission's Directorate Generals on the Information Society and on Justice and Home Affairs call for comments on a proposed retention regime across Europe.

"In this response we argue that any regime for the indiscriminate retention of personal data is hazardous. At a time like this, the European Union should be fulfilling its role to uphold the rights of individuals, as technologies become more invasive, and as laws are increasingly reluctant to protect individual rights. Data retention is an invasive and illegal practice with illusory benefits. And to date, the paths to data retention in Europe have involved illegitimate policy processes."

Full report available at:

Newfoundland: Privacy Commissioner Position Now Part-Time

The Newfoundland government announced the departure of its information and privacy commissioner, saying the position will be cut to part-time.

Cutting the position will allow the office to hire more employees while remaining within budget, Justice Minister Tom Marshall said in a statement released on September 9th, while "reaffirming" the province's commitment to access to information.

Press report available at:

Newfoundland government press release available at:

New Zealand: Privacy Commissioner To Boost Technical Resources

The Privacy Commissioner's office is seeking two specialist staffers to assist with technically complex matters such as those involving complaints of privacy invasion through ICT. Advertisements will be placed in the next three to four weeks, says a spokeswoman. Timing of the appointments will depend on the speed of the process and the appointees' other commitments, and no definite date can be given, she says.

In an interview last year, Commissioner Marie Shroff highlighted a number of technical matters involving IT that are likely to become privacy concerns in the near to medium future. These include electronic "digital rights management" facilities such as those in Microsoft's forthcoming operating system releases and the potential for radio frequency identification devices to track purchases in the street (Computerworld, November 10, 2003). She said at the time that although she had one staffer with useful technical experience, more could be needed.

Full press report:

Ontario: Police Share Digital Mugshots In Embrace Of Biometrics

Canadian police services have begun electronically sharing mugshots as part of a project that could eventually lead to a nationwide database of crime suspect photos.

Three Ontario police services converted their mugshot files into digital images for the pilot project, then pooled their efforts to create a searchable online library of 118,000 photos. The digital mugshot initiative, known as Project BlueBear, was a collaboration of the Canadian Police Research Centre, private firm VisionSphere Technologies Inc. and the southern Ontario police services of York, Windsor and Chatham-Kent.

Police used the computerized tool to quickly—and often successfully—compare images of people they arrested with the virtual library containing photos from old mugshot books, video surveillance tapes and composite drawings.

Critics predict the move toward reliance on such biometric identifiers as fingerprints, facial images and iris scans will be a troubling legacy of 9-11. They foresee an Orwellian society in which civil liberties and privacy are sacrificed in the name of national security. Advocates insist the brave new technologies will make Canada a safer place.

Full press report available at:

U.K.: Couple Banned From Opening Patio Doors For Privacy Reasons

When the Kedwards family finalized plans for an extension to their detached home, they thought French doors would be the perfect finishing touch. The doors would allow them to look out over their new patio and garden and provide a cool breeze on those warm summer nights.

But Croydon Council planning chiefs had other ideas and told the shocked family the doors must be kept locked shut permanently to protect a neighbour's privacy. The council claimed use of the doors would invade a neighbour's privacy and they must be secured shut.

Mrs. Kedwards said they bent over backwards to meet the new demands of the planning department and spent nearly £7,000 correcting the patio. She had hoped that the alterations would see an end to the saga. But although planning officers were satisfied with the work, they insisted the new French doors must be secured shut.

Full press report available at:

U.S.: Bill Seeks Civil Liberties Board

A sprawling intelligence reform bill introduced Tuesday in Congress to implement all of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations would create an executive-level civil liberties board with wide oversight and investigative powers.

The proposed Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, as outlined in the 9/11 Commission Report Implementation Act (.pdf) introduced by Sens. John McCain (R-Arizona) and Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut), differs sharply from the board created by President Bush in late August by executive order. While the board created by the president essentially serves as an adviser to the executive branch, the Senate proposal would create a body with a much broader range of responsibilities.

The tasks for the board laid out in the bill include helping to formulate antiterrorism policies, providing regular reports to Congress and the public, and investigating possible civil liberty and privacy violations. The board would also have the power to subpoena people in the process of investigations. Those who refuse to cooperate would face jail time.

Full press report available at:,1848,64886,00.html/wn_ascii

Mayor Richard M. Daley and City department heads announced on September 9th plans to expand the City's camera network and surveillance capacity with 250 additional specialized cameras.

The city plans to buy 250 new surveillance cameras and place them in places determined to be at high risk for crime or terrorism. They would be networked with 30 cameras police are using to try to curb violent crime, along with more than 1,000 already at O'Hare International Airport, on the city's transit lines and in public housing buildings and schools, Daley said. Specialized software will be applied to high-definition motorized cameras capable of rotating 360 degrees.

Daley dismissed privacy concerns, saying that the only places where the city installs cameras are public spaces.

Officials estimate the first phase of the project will be completed by spring 2006. The $5.1 million project will be funded through a federal homeland security grant and will be the City's first initiative to integrate intelligent video surveillance under one roof.

Full press report available at:

Full City of Chicago press release available at:

U.S.: Survey Indicates Relevant Banners Reduce User Ire

Most people would find banner ads less annoying if they were more relevant to their interests or needs, according to a study released by the Ponemon Institute.

The 2004 Survey on Internet Ads revealed that 66 per cent of those surveyed would find relevant ads less annoying, and that 52 per cent would be more likely to respond to a relevant banner ad.

Of the 1,054 usable survey responses in Ponemon's study, nearly 60 per cent of respondents said banner ads were "always annoying"—approaching the mid-60-per cent response for spam and telemarketers. However, the majority indicated that they were unwilling to pay—either for ad blocking services or online content—to stop such ads.

The study also found that nearly half of the respondents, 45 per cent, would give up some personal information if it meant they would receive more ads targeted to their individual interests. But the respondents also made it clear that they'd rather not give up any personally identifiable information (PII), with 55 per cent saying they would be more likely to visit a site that used targeted ads without collecting PII.

Full press report available at:

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