FBI abuse of Patriot Act proves data is unsafe in U.S. hands

BCGEU again assails privatization of B.C. personal information to U.S. company


Vancouver (14 March 2007) - The release of a U.S. Justice Department audit showing that the FBI improperly used the Patriot Act to obtain personal information proves that data on B.C. citizens is not safe in the hands of U.S.-based companies, says the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE).

"The Campbell government assured B.C. citizens that our personal information would be safe in the hands of U.S. companies, but it clearly is not," argues BCGEU president George Heyman. "When the FBI abuses the sweeping powers of the Patriot Act to spy on it's own citizens, everyone's confidential information is at risk."

The U.S. Justice Department audit found that the FBI committed "serious misuses of national security letter authorities" to access confidential records and withheld information from Congress on how often businesses were forced to turn over customer data.

The audit reveals that FBI agents improperly and illegally demanded data from businesses without proper authorization and issued more than 143,000 national security letters between 2003 and 2005 to obtain confidential records.

The B.C. Liberal government passed amendments to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in 2006 that allow the disclosure of citizens' personal information outside Canada "to an individual who is a service provider of the public body... if the information is necessary for the performance of the duties of the individual in relation to the public body."

"The provincial government assured us that our personal information would be protected and retained in Canada, and then changed the law to allow our information to be transferred to the U.S.," notes Heyman.

"In their ideological zeal to embrace privatization, they have placed the personal, confidential health and financial information of millions of British Columbians at risk of abuse by the United States government."

"The government's line through this entire process has been ‘trust us, we'll protect your privacy'. Well, as U.S. senator Russ Feingold says, "Trust us just doesn't cut it". British Columbians demand real protections to ensure that their personal information stays out of the hands of foreign governments," Heyman says. NUPGE

More information:U.S. Patriot Act is putting the privacy of Canadians at riskBCGEU forces Campbell to back down on privatization secrecy