Government using smartphones: Canada's privacy com. says there are 'disturbing' gaps in privacy/security

CanadaIs the Canadian federal government careless with our privacy? Quite possibly.

"Our audits turned up some disturbing gaps in the privacy policies and practices of government institutions," Canada's privacy commissioner, Jennifer Sotddart, said in a statement. "Whether they're using a BlackBerry, shredding old papers or disposing of outdated computer equipment, public servants need to know that the security of people's personal data is a top priority."

Jennifer believes that government departments aren't taking the issue "seriously enough."

"They were handing out BlackBerrys, in some cases, with no instruction to staff about passwords, or encryption, so it is an area for concern," Jennifer told Postmedia in an interview. "It's very concerning that significant parts of the federal government have still not caught up to the implications of the new technology."

In her wireless audit, she examined how five federal entities use smartphones, such as iPhones and Blackberries, and manage wireless networks. Quoth the Province:

The audit found that none had fully accessed the privacy threats and risks in using such technology. Gaps in policies and practices led to weak password protection for smart phones and inadequate encryption for Wi-Fi networks and data stored on mobile devices, Stoddart's office said.

Her office also looked at how Library and Archives Canada, which holds, and eventually disposes of, data on behalf of 90 federal institutions.

The audit found that satisfactory policies and procedures were in place for shredding documents and disposing of surplus equipment. However, it also found "disturbing deficiencies" in practice. Stoddart's office said 90% of computers donated to a recycling program for schools hadn't properly wiped the computers' hard drives.

Disposing of hand-held devices, as well as utilizing certain types of interceptable messaging systems, are just icing-on-the-cake shortcomings to a system that apparently doesn't respect our information.

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Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton is the managing editor of Techvibes and author of Tempest Bound. Based in Vancouver, Knowlton has been published in national publications and has also appeared on television and radio. Previously he was an editor for New Westminster weekly The Other Press and served on its board of directors. When not working, Knowlton enjoys hiking, tennis, and martial arts. more

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