Personal info on hunters, anglers stored in the U.S.
TORONTO—Hunters and anglers in Ontario expressed concerns about their privacy yesterday because their personal information is being stored in the United States, where it is subject to the American Patriot Act.
Tennessee-based Active Outdoors won a contract to handle licence applications from Ontario hunters and anglers starting Jan. 1, and warns on its answering machine that the data it stores are subject to American laws.
“They’re frustrated, they’re nervous, they’re outraged. They don’t want their information stored out of country,” O.F.A.H. executive director Lezlie Goodwin said in an interview.
“They don’t want anyone accessing this data except their provincial government, which they willingly give the information to in exchange for their fishing and hunting licence.”
Natural Resources minister Michael Gravelle said Active Outdoors signed a contract with very specific terms about abiding by Ontario law to protect the privacy of personal information.
“There will be no release of the information that’s there as a result of the company in the States having that information,” Gravelle stressed.
“If, indeed, they wanted to use the information, they would need to seek approval from us and they would not be receiving that approval.”
However, the anglers and hunters worry Homeland Security will use the Patriot Act to override any provincial law to access the personal data of Ontarians stored in the U.S.—and could use the information when Ontario residents try to cross the international border.
“The Patriot Act is in existence, and there’s no telling when the U.S. government may decide that they need to access that information,” warned Goodwin.
“They’re nervous that many of them are firearms owners, and are even nervous about the fact they could be targets of marketing.”
The Progressive Conservatives raised the issue during Question Period, saying constituents across Ontario are calling their offices to complain about having their personal data stored in the U.S.
“How can you assure Ontarians that this information will not be accessed by another government or third party for their own purposes,” asked Tory natural resources critic Laurie Scott.
Gravelle said the Ontario government was monitoring the situation closely to make sure personal information is truly protected.
“The very tough provisions of Ontario’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act absolutely apply,” Gravelle told the legislature.
“It’s very important to us that we maintain the privacy provisions.”
The NDP said the potential abuse of personal information is just one of the reasons they always oppose privatization of government services.
“Information about Ontarians should be something that is kept here in Ontario and not simply sold off to the highest bidder or, in fact, given away in order to save a couple of dollars,” charged NDP leader Andrea Horwath.