Canadians' Medical Records, Still Safe From the CIA

Monday, September 4, 2006

Canadians can rest easy: The CIA is not using its venture capital arm to snoop into the medical records of our northern neighbors.

That was the conclusion last week of the information and privacy commissioner in the Canadian province of Ontario. Prompted by concerns from civil liberties advocates, Commissioner Ann Cavoukian had launched an investigation into whether Canadian medical records might be exposed to U.S. spies because of the relationship between a software company doing work for the province and In-Q-Tel, the Arlington-based not-for-profit created seven years ago by the CIA.

Those concerns arose after In-Q-Tel became an investor in the software firm Initiate Systems Inc. earlier this year. Initiate's software is used for electronic health records in Ontario, as well as other Canadian provinces. The situation was reported in the trade publication Government Health IT.

But Cavoukian found no cause for alarm in the arrangement. Her investigation concluded that Initiate gets access to patients' personal health information only under strict conditions. Initiate employees can see the information only under direct supervision at certain locations in Ontario and can't access the data remotely. She also found that the relationship between Initiate and In-Q-Tel "does not allow In-Q-Tel to access any personal health information" in the Ontario databases.

Donald Tighe, an In-Q-Tel spokesman, said that's what his organization has maintained all along. "The recent report confirms that the use of an information management software solution by one organization has nothing to do with the use of that software program by other organizations," Tighe said in a written response to questions.

No word on what the CIA would want with Canadian medical records anyway.

-- Griff Witte

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