StatsCan Braces for Reaction to Moving Info to Cloud

Statistics Canada plans to move its information holdings to the digital cloud — a change the agency acknowledges will prompt questions about the protection of sensitive data.

The move is part of the federal government’s "cloud-first strategy" to meet the increasing demand for online services and provide an alternative to its own, increasingly creaky computers.

Privately-run cloud firms provide customers, including federal departments, with virtual computer services — from email systems to vast storage capacity — using software, servers and other hardware hosted on the company’s premises.

The nation's number-crunchers see several benefits including affordable access to the latest technologies, additional processing power and storage, and more timely provision of data to the public and researchers.

Ottawa is mindful that many countries, including Canada, have laws allowing them to subpoena or obtain a warrant for information from private organizations to support legal investigations.

The feds says the primary risk to data sovereignty is the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Washington’s ability to compel an organization subject to American law to turn over data under its control, regardless of the data’s location and without notifying Canada.

Moreover, there are long-standing information-sharing agreements and a legal assistance process between security and law-enforcement agencies in Canada and the U.S.

The Canadian government is obligated to protect personal data and highly sensitive information related to national security, cabinet discussions, military affairs and legal matters.

As a result, only data information designated up to and including a category called Protected B may be placed in the cloud. Protected B information, if compromised, could cause serious harm to an individual, organization or government.