At issue: privacy regulation

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The American Civil Liberties Union wasted little time rallying support in opposition to the purported alliance between Google and the U.S. National Security Agency. A leading researcher in online privacy believes Canadians should be just as worried.

Avner Levin, director of the Privacy & Cyber Crime Institute at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management, said the partnership should “raise a red flag to a lot of people in Canada.”

One thing that concerns him is Google's aggressive marketing approach to a number of Canadian organizations, including universities such as his, offering cut-rate access to Gmail, Google Docs and other tools. Because these services are often branded by the corporation or institution, users might not even be aware they are sharing information with Google.

Levin is also concerned that Canadians do not have much recourse.

“Traditionally, Canada has a hard time getting its voice heard in the U.S.," he said. "When we look at how reticent Google has been about dealing with its privacy issues with China, we have to wonder what we could do as Canadians.”

Although Canada's privacy legislation offers some protection, he warned: “If you had an issue with what Google did with your information, you could complain to the federal privacy commissioner, but it would be up to her to take the case to court.”

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