According to the 2007 Privacy International report, Canada's overall rating is summed up by the statement, "Some safeguards but weakened protection". (See the site for a map and summaries for the surveillance status of 46 other countries. Could be worse - we could be the US which received a black rating as an "Endemic surveillance society").
Here's their general breakdown on Canada's status:
* Privacy not mentioned in Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but courts have recognised the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy
* Statutory rules at the federal level (public and private sectors) and provincial laws apply to sectors and governments
* Federal commission is widely recognised as lacking in powers such as order-marking powers, and ability to regulate trans-border data flows
* Variety of provincial privacy commissioners have made privacy-enhancing decisions and taken cases through the courts over the past year (particularly Ontario)
* Court orders required for interception and there is no reasonable alternative method of investigation
* Video surveillance is spreading despite guidelines from privacy commissioners
* Highly controversial no-fly list, lacking legal mandate
* Continues to threaten new policy on online surveillance
* Increased calls for biometric documents to cater for U.S. pressure, while plans are still unclear for biometric passports
We do have one of the highest ratings along with Greece and Romania according to the report's findings, but we obviously still have a lot of room for improvement and we definitely have to maintain the privacy rights that we do have while not allowing our provincial and federal governments to chip away at them as too many conservative governments would like to in the name of the GWOT which they like to claim is for our own good. Revamping the RCMP should also be aimed at protecting our rights considering the horrible way it handled the Maher Arar situation in its attempt to "cooperate" with US intelligence agencies.
From Privacy International's press release:
Both Britain and the United States fell into the lowest-performing group of "endemic surveillance societies."
"The general trend is that privacy is being extinguished in country after country," said Simon Davies, director of Privacy International. "Even those countries where we expected ongoing strong privacy protection, like Germany and Canada, are sinking into the mire.
"I'm afraid that Canada has kind of lost the plot a plot a little bit this year and hence its move downwards," Davies told the Canadian Press in comments about Canada.
He cites the C-I-A's accessing the banking records of Canadians through the SWIFT banking information system, the Canadian no-fly list, and the Toronto Transit Commission's installation of security cameras as examples of the erosion of privacy rights.
He also decried the increasing number of programs involving the United States, which he said unfortunately has no federal privacy law.
"What's happening, is that Canadian information, sensitive information, is flowing across the border in increasing volumes," Davies said.
"Frankly, that's the sort of situation where government should put pressure on the U.S. government to protect that information legally," he said, "But it's not doing so."
The report came two days after Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart warned in a release that 2008 will be "another challenging one for privacy in Canada."
"Heightened national security concerns, the growing business appetite for personal information and technological advances are all potent - and growing - threats to privacy rights," Stoddart said.
Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
- Benjamin Franklin
Canada's Privacy Commissioner
Tory database draws ire of privacy experts
PrivacyInfo.ca (comprehensive site with privacy news and info by law professor Michael Geist - definitely worth bookmarking)