March 30, 2009
M. Rémi Poliquin
1925 avenue Brookdale
Hand Delivered at LBPSB Council meeting – March 30, 2009
Copy: Remy Normand, Commission d’accès à l’information du Québec
I am writing to you as the person at the Lester B. Pearson School Board who is responsible for the protection of personal information.
The matter concerns the messaging system contract the Board has entered with United States based Blackboard Connect – Connect-Ed. In order to provide the messaging services, personal contact information was transferred to the United States. This transfer of data has fundamental implications on individual liberties and privacy.
The Board should have:
– informed the parents that the data was going to be transferred to the US and that this personal information may be made available to the US government or its agencies;
– asked for expressed consent to transfer personal information to the US;
– established a clear opt out mechanism for those not wishing to have their personal information transferred to the US.
According to the ‘Report from the Chairman of the Board’, in the February ‘Pearson News’ issue, on February 11, 2009, the Board sent an announcement via telephone to over 23,000 households concerning the system. In the Report is an explanation by the Chair Marcus Tabachnick concerning security and privacy matters. It also includes information and an opinion, submitted on Feb.18th, prepared by an independent legal counsel “on a mandate from Connect Ed as requested by the Lester B. Pearson School Board.”
Unfortunately, no data transmission over the Internet or any wireless network can be guaranteed to be 100% secure. As a result, while we strive to protect Client Data, you acknowledge that:
(a) there are security and privacy limitations of the Internet which are beyond our control;
(b) the security, integrity and privacy of any and all information and data exchanged between you and us through the Blackboard Website cannot be guaranteed; and
(c) any such information and data may be viewed or tampered with in transit by a third party.
On the technical front, this is troubling but on the societal front, this has much wider ranging implications. This concern revolves around the fact that data submitted by the Board to the US, now falls under the jurisdiction of the Patriot Act. This Act has deep ramifications on our sovereignty with its sweeping search and surveillance features that do not exist in Canada. The Act facilitates the ability of the US law enforcement authorities to search databases containing personal information while at the same time requiring the organizations holding the database, to keep the disclosure a secret; a level and type of privacy invasion unseen in Canada.
The protection of private information is of paramount importance for public institutions. The equivalent protection accorded to personal information residing in the US on Canadian citizens is doubtful. It is with this spirit I am writing you to find out the following:
Did the Board submit to the Commission d’accès à l’information du Québec (CAI), a request for an opinion that it was OK to send personal information to the USA without the consent of parents?
If so, when did the board request to the CAI for an opinion?
Finally, when was this opinion given by the CAI?
Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter.
see Letter to Editor: Second look at law