Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Unintended Consequences

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a story this week about a few unintended consequences of the USA PATRIOT Act for Canadians.

Because the new spying laws in the U.S. are overly liberal, some Canadian provinces (so far British Columbia, Alberta, and Nova Scotia) have passed laws or regulations to restrict the storage of personal data on servers or computers in the U.S. This means that colleges, and presumably other companies, are forced to relocate data to servers in Canada or risk paying huge fines. In some cases it also means that laptops with personal info stored on them can't be taken from Canada to the U.S. because that would open them up to the possibility of being searched by U.S. law enforcement agencies. For some U.S. companies who do business in Canada this has mean moving servers up there to avoid breaking these new laws.

Ironically, as the article points out, the Canadian laws require data holders to tell someone when their personal information has been accessed while the U.S. laws forbid them from doing so. One of these days someone is going to end up in a terrible legal muddle over this, the only question is which set of laws will prevail in the end.

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