Er, census, I mean. According to THIS blog, "Statistics Canada has outsourced census-collection software and data processing to U.S. weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin."
Yeesh. Couldn't they have picked a less controversial company to outsource the census work to? Like, I dunno, Monsanto or something?
Now, ethics of having anything to do with merchants o' death aside, is it true that an American company will be handling our super-sensitive, check-this-box-if-you-want-your-info-released-in-96-years data? And that, as THIS puts it, "it is theoretically possible for the U.S. government to gain access through the Patriot Act, if it really wanted to?"
Well, Stats Can says no in a page they've set up just about the controversy:
Does Statistics Canada have a contract with Lockheed Martin?A task force -- comprised of Mr. Denis Desautels, former Auditor General of Canada; Mr. Jean-Pierre Soublière, former President of Systemhouse Canada and International; . Simon Gauthier, Senior Manager, IT and General Services, Inter-American Development Bank and former Deputy Chief Information Officer for the Government of Canada; and Mr. Robert Reimer of PricewaterhouseCoopers -- also just released a report on the subject: "We conclude that the data to be gathered during the 2006 Census using the contractor supplied systems will be secure. Based on the work performed and to the best of our knowledge, it would be practically impossible for the contractors involved in the Census project to intentionally or otherwise access Census data."
Yes. Following an open, competitive and stringent bidding process, Lockheed Martin Canada along with IBM Canada and Transcontinental Printing Canada are required to provide hardware, software and printing services to Statistics Canada for the 2006 Census. At no point does any contractor collect, handle, or possess confidential census responses. ...
Is Lockheed Martin conducting the 2006 Canadian census?
No. Statistics Canada is in full control of all aspects of the census. All questionnaires and data are exclusively handled by Statistics Canada employees. At no point does any contractor handle or possess confidential census responses.
How safe are census data from the Patriot Act?
Completely. The information collected from Canadians will be, at all times, under the exclusive care and full control of Statistics Canada employees. At no time do contractors have access to or possess confidential Census responses. Thus, even if a request were made to any contractor to hand-over or transmit Census data, it would be physically impossible for them to comply.
I know a task force and Stats Can's assurances won't be enough to convince many privacy advocates on the right and left, but it's enough for me. Also, I already filled out my form online before reading all about this. (And I'm sure I gave the U.S. government more personal information about myself going through Customs last week than they could glean from my short census form.)
Still, not the nicest optics getting Lockheed Martin involved with collection of our private data. Never mind IBM, a company with an illustrious history of gathering population data.
Now, I'm not a real civil-disobedience type (though I did give a really nasty glare to a woman whose cellphone went off in a show last night), but if you're unconvinced, here are some tips on how to boycott the census and info of the consequences: a maximum $500 fine or three months in jail.