By Megan Drysdale
If you’re storing, processing or routing data in the cloud—outside of Canadian jurisdiction—that data loses important Canadian legal and constitutional protections. Your personal data could be subject to mass surveillance by security agencies around the world.
An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Toronto released a report on the importance of location of data and servers following a yearlong study of the privacy implications of using cloud-hosted services in another nation’s jurisdiction. “Seeing Through The Cloud” shows that Canadian data stored or transited through the US or other countries do not receive similar levels of protections from access by government agencies—the idea of “similar risks” is flawed.
Where in the world your data is located affects which third parties can legally access it, and on what terms, regardless of Canadian law.
Many Canadian companies and organizations are using third party vendors outside of Canada to create content and store digital archives, including personal and confidential information. This data ends up on servers around the world, outside of the original company’s physical control. International outsourcing can often be cheaper and new cloud-based technologies are attractive for companies and individuals, but this comes as we are learning more and more about the troubling scope of data access by surveillance agencies around the world. Even communications traffic between two points in the same Canadian city often travels through the US, exposing it to US mass surveillance programs like the ones unveiled by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. And foreign governments have reduced responsibilities to respect the privacy rights of “aliens.” The researchers recommend avoiding outsourcing data as the best measure to protect your personal information, but they also include specific recommendations for companies that are already using outside services, as well as recommendations for legislators and privacy commissioners to actively reduce the risks for Canadians.
Read the full report.
Use Wireshark to figure out which countries are storing your data.
Search the Snowden Archive: a searchable archive of all documents leaked by Edward Snowden.
Megan Drysdale is CJFE's Editorial and Events Coordinator.