Privacy and Security in an Age of Terrorism

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In the summer of 2004, the Attorney General of British Columbia responded to the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner who had expressed his official concern that the extraterritorial application of the USA Patriot Act posed a threat to the privacy of British Columbians and other Canadians. Given the extensive and effective mechanisms in place for cross-border sharing of information on suspected and convicted criminals, the use of the USA Patriot Act by American officials is both unnecessary and unlikely.

Security and privacy are not, in fact, part of a zero-sum game. Rather they are complementary social realities. An analysis of the notion of security in terms of the distinction between identity and behaviour indicates clearly that surveillance of behaviour enhances security without threatening privacy.

There are some legitimate concerns that the widespread application of biometric technologies threatens privacy; several additional concerns have been raised over Bill C-36, the Canadian antiterrorism bill, which seem to be exaggerated and alarmist. Such criticism as exists regarding Canadian antiterrorism efforts ought more properly be directed against the lax and inadequate application of existing laws rather than against the laws themselves.

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