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OTTAWA — Emerging technologies are undermining the privacy and anonymity of people in Canada and around the world — and laws and regulations are, if anything, helping the process along, according to results of a new study.
So says Lessons from the Identity Trail, a "unique" analysis conducted by scholars from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy and the Netherlands.
In all five jurisdictions, there is little legal protection of anonymity, the study says. Rather, there's a growing preference for laws and policies that require people to be identified.
And the legal protection for anonymity that does exist appears to be eroding, the study says.
"The focus on safety and security has repeatedly trumped the call or justification for anonymity," said Valerie Steeves, a University of Ottawa criminologist, who co-edited the book with Ian Kerr, Research Chair in ethics, law and technology at the University of Ottawa.
Each of the five jurisdictions has considered introducing national ID cards, a "significant change that promises to have a chilling effect on anonymity," Steeves said.
Judicial rulings in some jurisdictions also have "lowered the threshold" for police to detain people and to make them identify themselves.
Furthermore, the use of video surveillance in public spaces is "clearly increasing" in all jurisdictions, diminishing the de facto anonymity once enjoyed in those spaces.
"The law seems to be enabling the deployment of technologies of surveillance, rather than protecting anonymity,"
Technologies such as radio frequency identification chips and software built into everything from the clothes we wear to the furniture on which we sit — appear to be transforming communications systems from "architectures of freedom to architectures of control," the study says.
"The space for private, unidentified, or unauthenticated activity is rapidly shrinking."