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Should We Draw the Line on How Much Personal Information Governments Collect?

personal information on ipad

Canada and the U.S. enjoy the longest undefended border in the world. But, as anyone who’s endured long hours in line at a border crossing will attest, it’s not the ‘open’ border it used to be. The days of travelling to the U.S with just your driver’s license and a smile are long gone. In some ways, the Canada – U.S. border may actually be one of the best ‘defended’ in the world.

While we all know that governments keep tabs on their citizens, most of us didn’t understand the extent of that ‘watchful eye’ until Eric Snowden blew the whistle on numerous global surveillance programs and the cooperation between telecommunications companies and government spy agencies around the world. Most of it under the guidance of the National Security Agency (NSA) in the U.S.

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The Largest Computer in the World

If it’s not easy to understand the scope and implications of Snowden’s revelations, at least one of the NSA’s actions can help us visualize the enormity of how much they know. In an interview with www.sfgate.com, James Bamford, an investigative journalist and NSA expert, reveals that the organization is secretly building the world’s fastest and most powerful computer, capable of processing one quintillion operations per second. That’s 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 actions … per second.

It’s Canada’s good fortune to be the U.S.’s closest neighbor. Who knows what job opportunities and our economy would be like without access to their markets. But the close relationship has its drawbacks.

While it might pale in comparison to anything south of the border, the RCMP and CSIS maintain databases on Canadians. The RCMP Criminal Record database has information on over 4.5 million Canadians, or almost 13% of the population. As part of the close relations between the two countries, the U.S. Customs Border Patrol (CBP) has access to the RCMP’s database.

So when we Canadians travel to the U.S., the CBP knows far more about us than customs and border agencies in other countries.

It’s the longest unprotected border in the world. But, for some Canadians, it may be the most difficult to cross, and it will only become more difficult in the future.