Research Subjects

Description of the Problems

  • New technologies and the erosion of citizen’s fundamental right of privacy ;
  • Normative instruments and the treatment of confidential information : from gathering to disposal ;
  • Cross-border flows of personal information ;
  • Information sharing between private and public domains or the equilibrium between sharing and protection ;

Project Objective

  • Identification, classification and analysis of the various new technologies ;
  • Comparative analysis of the risks of circulation of personal information under american, canadian and european legal regimes ;
  • Re-evaluation of the constitutional equilibrium between the right to privacy and the contemporary need of technologies ;

Description of the Problems

Recent technological developments pertaining to national security have not gone about without raising important questions relative to a citizen’s fundamental rights. RFID (radio frequency identification or radio-identification) chips, intelligent molecules, ambient intelligence environments, biometric identification systems, and behavioural analysis or facial recognition systems are but only a mere sample of the technology deemed necessary by national authorities in order to ensure a greater security in airports, government buildings, and other public institutions. These new technologies contribute, by their very nature, towards the erosion of a citizen’s right to their own private life.

In order to establish trust, protect the dignity of persons and promote transparency of political, economic and social activities, normative instruments designed to guarantee protection of personal information have been adopted by a majority of States. Such instruments provide a framework for processing personal information, from gathering to disposal. For example, a company, or public agency that gathers personal information has to ensure that information identifying a physical person is kept confidential.

In a global context, such a precaution is all the more important when concerned with cross-border flows of information where the guarantees provided by these normative instruments seem insufficient and do not adequately protect an individual’s personal information beyond state borders. A similar analysis can also be conducted with regards to the transfer of information of certain citizens in a particular state between different organisms and levels of government. This transfer and collection of information has become even quicker and problem-free thanks to the rapid evolution of information technology.

Circulation of information must not reduce protection. A balance thus has to be found between circulation requirements and protection of information. This is especially problematic when national security is in question.

Therefore, since the government must protect its citizens from terrorist attacks of any nature (national security), as well as many other problematic issues that may arise from everyday life in society (public security), it becomes important to allow the various states to acquire the necessary tools and technologies required to accomplish this role. Should we not, however, ensure the installation of effective government plans in order to assure the people that these new technologies don’t in fact contribute to the erosion of our fundamental rights (for example, the right to our private life)? Is this in fact a camouflaged ploy designed to attack our rights and freedoms, or simply the price we must pay to enjoy security?

All these issues require an assessment of the balance that has to be established between individual rights (e.g., protection of personal information) and collective rights (e.g., national or public security) amidst the present obsession for security. This particular reflection must inevitably address the new technologies available, all the while identifying the possible risks, but also the possible solutions potentially provided by information technology to this dichotomy, national security – fundamental rights.

Project Objective

There are two distinct objectives to this present research project. Firstly, we must identify, classify, and analyze the different emerging technologies of which their usage by national governments to collect and transfer one’s personal information could potentially threaten a citizen’s fundamental rights. Then, we must use a comparative analysis of American, Canadian, and European law to produce a tool for assessing the risks involved in circulation of personal information. This makes it possible to identify which measures and precautions should be adopted to ensure protection of personal information both inside and outside provincial legislation It also makes it possible to pinpoint and describe existing and potential precautions by performing a rigorous analysis of information sources, holding, and movements, effectively, by criticizing the available technology and their real impact on the widespread flow of information. This will allow us to better grasp the actions that need to be taken in order to establish a balance between the rights and interests present, in other words to be able to access information to guarantee national or public security all the while protecting the rights of the people concerned.

This project also aims at re-evaluating the constitutional balance by which the right to one’s private life is subject to the regard of technology’s very essence as present in a citizen’s everyday life. This re-evaluation postulates that the balance present between one’s private life and security founds itself upon a factual and technological context that no longer corresponds to our contemporary era.

The realisation of such a study will rely upon the creation of an international network of collaborators that will be required to collect, strengthen , and analyze the pertinent information in each of the following territories; Canada, United States of America, and Europe. This network will support the various research activities undertaken by the researchers, in other words the identification of each possible solution pathway to the identified problems. This network of collaborators will strive towards the elaboration of a work plan for the different research activities and will subsequently proceed to the diffusion of the research results, thanks to, in large part, the organization of meetings and the launch of this official website.