Trump’s Privacy Act change could expose Canadian union members’ personal information to Homeland Security and other U.S. agencies

Canadian union members may find their personal information quietly slipping into the hands of U.S. Homeland Security as a result of a recent executive order by President Donald Trump.

Trump signed an order on Jan. 25 which removes non-citizens from US privacy Act protections. This could expose internet data on Canadian union websites to US agencies if the websites are hosted or routed in any way through the U.S.

Many unions hold member data including medical, financial, criminal and other historical information in confidential websites. If a US agency can access it, members could easily find themselves denied entry to the U.S.

This is particularly concerning for Canadian unions and other progressive organizations which have been migrating away from hosting their data in Canada by relying on external services such as NationBuilder and others.

The issue was raised by Michael Geist, a professor at the University of Ottawa who specializes in internet and e-commerce law.

The only way to protect member data from US agencies is to ensure that such websites are hosted, routed and backed up in Canada. Unions should query their hosting organization to ensure their member data is not exposed in this manner.

Jan. 31 2017