Canadian Commissioner calls for privacy overhaul

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The Canadian government should overhaul privacy legislation and rein in intelligence agencies to reflect a changing security landscape, its Privacy Commissioner told parliamentarians in late January.

Interim Commissioner Chantal Bernier made the recommendations in a report, issued late January, which said that the context for privacy protection has shifted.

"Intelligence activities are now turned towards individuals dispersed within the general population," it said, adding that intelligence agencies are spreading the net wider than before, and targeting "domestic domains".

Recommendations made by the report included the use of privacy impact assessments before implementing new programs, and the requirement for government departments to demonstrate their need to acquire personal information under the Privacy Act. The exchange of personal information on residents between private sector and government organizations should be publicly reported, the Commissioner added.

Bernier also called for stricter accountability controls on intelligence agencies. Communications Security Establishment Canada, CSEC's foreign-facing spy agency, should publish an non-classified annual report detailing its ongoing activities, she argued, and the powers of federal review bodies tasked with overseeing these agencies should be expanded.

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