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Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian during questioning at a legislative committee probing the gas plant scandal June 25, 2013 in Toronto. (Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)
Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian during questioning at a legislative committee probing the gas plant scandal June 25, 2013 in Toronto. (Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)

Business Briefing

Looser privacy rules may see mass surveillance, discrimination: Officials Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Wednesday, March 5, 2014.

Follow Michael Babad and The Globe's Business Briefing on Twitter.

Don't loosen rules: Experts
Three privacy officials are warning today against loosening controls over collecting and using personal data.

Ontario’s privacy commissioner, Ann Cavoukian, and her colleagues are presenting their warnings in a paper today in Washington, a response to recent proposals to change OECD guidelines.

Most privacy laws are based on the Fair Information Practice Principles, or FIPPs, of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and development, they say, and that while, yes, the world is changing in an era of “big data,” people can’t lose control of their personal data.

The proposal would probably “weaken rather than strengthen” privacy, if implemented, Ms. Cavoukian argues, along with Alexander Dix, the Berlin data protection and freedom of information commissioner, and Khaled El Emam, Canada research chair in electronic health information.

“Leaving it up to companies and governments to determine the acceptable secondary uses of personal data is a flawed proposition, that will no doubt lead to greater privacy infractions,” they write, responding to the proposal for more “transparency and accountability” by those in the public and private sector who use such data.

“Inadequate restraints and a paternalistic approach could lead to what privacy advocates fear most – ubiquitous mass surveillance, facilitated by extensive and detailed profiling, sharpened information asymmetries and power imbalances, ultimately leading to various forms of discrimination, old and new,” they add in the paper to a congressional committee.

They stress they are not opposed to greater accountability, but rather don’t want to see “critical” principles eroded.

Poloz holds the line
Canada’s economy is expected to be on the soft side in the current quarter of the year as exports “underperform” and business investment refuses to pick up, the Bank of Canada warned today.

But the central bank reiterated that it still expects a “soft landing” for the housing market and continued efforts among Canadian families to get a handle on their debts.

As The Globe and Mail’s Barrie McKenna reports, the central bank under governor Stephen Poloz made no change to policy, continuing to signal that any change in its benchmark interest rate will depend on how the data changes, though it continued to stress the low level of inflation.

The key rate has held at 1 per cent for more than three years now.

“The bank still expects underlying growth of around 2.5 per cent in 2014, with the current quarter likely to be softer,” Mr. Poloz and his colleagues said in their statement.

“Exports have been a little stronger than previously thought but continue to underperform, and overall business investment has yet to pick up.”

They also pointed to heightened volatility in global markets, and noted that the Ukraine crisis has “added to geopolitical uncertainty.”

Marchionne on Chrysler
Sergio Marchionne says he doesn’t want politicians to “screw around” with Chrysler Group LLC’s spending program.

At an auto show in Geneva today, the chief executive officer of both Chrysler and its parent, Fiat, shed more light on the auto maker’s surprise decision yesterday to pull its request for aid from the governments of Canada and the province of Ontario.

As Adrian Morrow, Greg Keenan and Steven Chase report, Chrysler had been looking for at least $700-million to help fund a $3.6-billion program at two Ontario factories.

But that became a “political football,” the company said in a statement yesterday.

“I don’t want politicians to screw around with the capital expenditure program,” Mr. Marchionne told reporters today, according to Bloomberg News.

“This is not their business. I am not here to try to satisfy people’s egos or politicians’ ambitions. I make cars, as simple as that.”

Cisco taps Toronto
Cisco Systems Inc. has chosen Toronto as one of its four new global innovation hubs, a move it says represents an investment of $100-million in the city over 10 years, The Globe and Mail's Tavia Grant reports.

Canada’s largest city joins Songdo, South Korea, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and another as-yet unnamed location that have been slated as centres for innovation, the company said today.

The world’s largest maker of computer-networking equipment said it will focus on opportunities around the so-called “Internet of everything,” helping start-ups and established companies “while fostering Canadian-based innovation.”

Many will welcome the news, given that Canada has lagged its peers in measures of innovation, particularly in venture capital investment and business R&D spending.

EU aids Ukraine
The European Union is coming to the aid of Ukraine, unveiling a package worth the equivalent of $15-billion (U.S.).

"The most immediate priority for the EU is to contribute to a peaceful solution to the current crisis, in full respect of international law,” European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement today.

"In parallel, the international community should mobilize to help Ukraine stabilise its economic and financial situation.”

The aid includes grants of €1.4-billion, loans worth €1.6-billion, up to €8-billion from the European Investment Bank, and other measures.

China sticks to growth forecasts
China is holding fast to its expectations of GDP growth, struggling to maintain the economic expansion in the face of fiscal, social and environmental threats to its prosperity, The Globe and Mail's Nathan VanderKlippe reports from Beijing.

Today, amid the grandeur of the cavernous Great Hall of the People, Premier Li Keqiang offered his “report on the work of the government,” the annual Chinese address that defines how its leadership envisions the year ahead.

The most important elements of that vision suggest a country dedicated to preserving the status quo despite rising problems, in what one critic called a “mission impossible.”

China is forecasting economic growth of “about 7.5 per cent” – unchanged, to the word, from last year – and budgeted a 12.2-per-cent expansion in military spending, up slightly from the previous year, but in line with a two-decade streak of hefty defence increases.

Bank of England suspends employee
The Bank of England has been caught up in a global look at alleged manipulation of foreign exchange rates, though the details are far from clear.

The central bank said today that it suspended one member of its staff, but did not elaborate.

"It is a matter of public record that the Bank of England has been conducting an internal review into allegations that Bank of England officials condoned or were informed of manipulation in the foreign exchange market or the sharing of confidential information," the central bank said in a statement.

"This extensive review of documents, e-mails and other records has to date found no evidence that Bank of England staff colluded in any way in manipulating the foreign exchange market or in sharing confidential client information," it added.

"However, the bank requires its staff to follow rigorous internal control processes and has today suspended a member of staff, pending investigation by the bank into compliance with those processes."

Adidas hit by currency woes
The turmoil in the currencies of emerging markets continues to hit some of the world’s major companies.

Adidas AG today projected results this year will be hurt by the issues of the currency market.

“We finished 2013 with an exceptionally strong fourth quarter,” said chief executive officer Herbert Hainer.

“Currency-neutral sales grew 12 per cent, which was above our expectations,” he said in the company’s earnings statement.

“This ensured that we met our revised full year targets from September, despite a further worsening of currency exchange rates. In the fourth quarter alone, negative currency effects cost us nine percentage points on the top line.”

This year, the company said, its results will be “significantly impacted by currency movements.”

Tie me kangaroo down
With the possible exception of a koala bear, and the kitten curled on your lap, what’s cuter than a kangaroo?

Which makes one wonder what the diplomats dining with Australia’s agriculture minister today will think of their dinner.

According to Bloomberg News, Barnaby Joyce told reporters in Canberra that he’s serving kangaroo to a group of ambassadors at a Parliament House dinner, hoping to boost global exports of the meat.

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