This week the Canadian Shooting Sports Association released an alert regarding a poll that is being conducted by Ekos Research Associates. This poll is supposedly a “client satisfaction survey” regarding the Canadian Firearms Centre (CFC). The CFC is the call centre that administers the controversial firearms registry. It is part of the Canadian Firearms Program (CFP) which is run by the RCMP. According to information available so far, this survey was commissioned by the RCMP. In order to conduct this poll, Ekos was granted access to confidential information without permission from the people involved or any type of oversight.
There’s so much wrong with this situation that I’m really not sure where to start. I guess the RCMP’s own words regarding privacy and sharing of information is as good a place as any:
Does the CAFC share personal information collected for the Firearms Program with other agencies or the private sector?
Relevant Firearms Program information is disclosed only to federal and provincial public safety business partners that have legal authority to collect this information consistent with their public safety responsibilities. Program business partners include local and provincial police, the Canada Border Services Agency and International Trade Canada. The Privacy Act requires that those agencies must have a use consistent with the purpose for which the information was collected. In turn, those non-federal agencies to which firearms information is disclosed are bound by similar requirements under their jurisdictional privacy laws.
Furthermore, firearms information is not shared with any private sector agencies. Some private companies, however, can have access to personal information while under a contracted arrangement for software administration or records management procedures. Under the terms of those contracts, these companies cannot use or disclose information. Also, employees of private companies are thoroughly screened for security clearance to ensure that personal information is protected at the same level as federal requirements.
If someone can explain to me how a “client satisfaction survey” falls under either software administration or records management procedures I would really love to hear from you. It would appear that not only has the RCMP blatantly violated the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), they have also acted in contravention of their own policy!
To add insult to injury, only 4 of the questions being asked have anything to do with “client satisfaction” (see the end of this entry for the full list of questions). The remaining questions request information that is: already documented in the registry database, irrelevant and inappropriate, and/or nothing more than a thinly disguised fishing expedition.
Apart from the obvious and appalling privacy issues, one of my immediate concerns is public safety. What security clearance do the pollsters have? What type of confidentiality agreements are in place? Who is accountable if this confidential information ends up in the wrong hands? You see, we’re not just talking about names, phone numbers and addresses (which is bad enough in its own right!). We’re talking about names and addresses in conjunction with a list of firearms stored at that address.
The security of the registry database has been a bone of contention with firearms owners since its inception. In the wrong hands, the information held in that database amounts to a detailed inventory and shopping list. Criminal access to the registry database puts the safety of both firearms owners and the general public at serious, and unnecessary, risk. The registry has, in fact, been hacked more than 300 times in the last decade, with several dozen of those cases still unsolved.
Riddle me this: if the RCMP can’t even keep my confidential information secure in their own databases, why would they think that a private company would be able to? Or, for that matter, even care to?
If the privacy and public safety concerns regarding this issue weren’t enough, there is a third factor at play here too: politics. The two points that are catching my attention are:
- Bill C-391, a controversial private members bill seeking to abolish the long gun registry, is slated for its second reading in two weeks.
- The Gun Control lobby launched an aggressive worldwide campaign (spearheaded by IANSA) over the summer in which they attempted to link legal firearms ownership to domestic violence.
I just can’t help but wonder at the timing of it all. Especially when this survey asks questions about things like marital status, children in the home, types and numbers of firearms owned, and plans for future firearms purchases. Add in the fact that the Gun Control lobby in Canada is funded by tax-payer money (courtesy of the Liberals) and that Michael Ignatieff seems to be hell-bent on toppling the minority Conservative government as soon as possible. It’s definitely enough to make a person pause. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that there’s no such thing as coincidence, particularly in politics.
While I can only speculate as to the political reasons for this survey, there is no room for debate on the issues of public safety and the RCMP’s violation of the Privacy Act. The Conservative government has already launched an investigation into the matter, and the CSSA and National Firearms Association (NFA) are contemplating criminal charges against those responsible. There is even talk of a class action lawsuit, although at this stage that is little more than rumour.
I know that some readers are thinking, “What’s the big deal? It’s just some innocent questions.” The issue is not the questions being asked. The issue is how Ekos came into possession of the list of people to whom they posed those questions. The bottom line is this: the RCMP intentionally distributed confidential information to a private company without permission or oversight, and in contravention of The Privacy Act and their own policies.
Given the nature of the information at the centre of this firestorm, and the history of security violations pertaining to that information, it is not at all unreasonable to be concerned about the safety of gun owners and the public at large. This breach may well result in an innocent gun owner being killed, or his/her guns being stolen to kill someone else.
Someone is purposely playing with life and death, and likely for political gain. People in positions of authority need to be shown that, even though the majority of Canadians would rather watch Big Brother than stand up to Big Brother, there are still those of us who are willing and able to hold them accountable for their actions.
As promised, here’s the list of questions being asked in the poll:
- How do you contact the CFC?
- How many times in a year do you contact the CFC?
- What do you call about?
- How satisfied were you?
- What classification is your firearms license? (Restricted/Non-Restricted/Prohibited)
- Do you own any firearms?
- What’s your reason for owning firearms?
- Will you renew your license?
- When will you renew your license?
- How do you renew your license?
- Have you ever had a gun verified?
- How was it verified?
- Do you plan on updating your address?
- Do you plan on transferring firearms in the future?
- Do you plan on destroying firearms?
- Do you plan on changing your license status?
- Do you plan on deactivating a firearm?
- Do you transport firearms?
- Do you plan on acquiring more firearms?
- What’s the best way to communicate with you? (E-Mail, Advertisement, Mail)
- When looking for information about firearms how likely are you to contact (Between 1-7)
- CFC, Friend and Club?
- Are you married, single or common law?
- Do you have children in the home?
- How many under 18?
- What is your highest level of education?
- What is your annual income?