This telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication - Western Union memo, 1876
A CANADIAN WOMAN has alleged that she was refused passage to the US because US border control had access to her private medical information that it should not have had.
Ellen Richardson of Toronto was crossing into the US when she was told that due to her medical history she would need special clearance that she hadn't obtained. Therefore she was denied entry.
Ms Richardson alleged that the information that she had been hospitalised for clinical depression in 2012 was in her personal medical records which, in turn, should only have been available to her Canadian health care professionals.
The obvious conclusion, based on a Canadian Broadcasting Company report, is of course that Canadian medical records have been subject to ongoing surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA), though at this stage, that remains speculation.
Ms Richardson, who had been travelling to the US for a Christmas cruise told the Toronto Star, "I was so aghast. I was saying, 'I don't understand this. What is the problem?' I was so looking forward to getting away. I'd even brought a little string of Christmas lights I was going to string up in the cabin. It's not like I can just book again right away."
There are a number of concerning aspects to this case. As a disabled person, she would have had to plan carefully for such a trip. As a depressive, the stress that this caused would have the potential to exacerbate her condition, which apparently had been under control for several years.
Most worrying of all, Canadian authorities apparently were completely unaware of any issue as she left to travel, suggesting they had no knowledge of access that the US government might have had to their citizens' medical records.
US Health Department spokesperson Joanne Fraser said that its personnel "do not have access to medical or other health records for Ontarians travelling to the US", while US Customs and Border Protection media spokeswoman Jenny Burke said, "The department is prohibited from discussing specific cases." Apparently oblivious to the irony, Ms Burke cited "privacy laws" as the reason for the policy.
Whether this turns out to be down to NSA surveillance or not, someone, somewhere has allowed the US government to access information that it simply shouldn't have.
Ms Richardson is seeking legal advice at the moment, however her travel insurance has advised her that she was not covered for this eventuality and therefore has lost her holiday. µ
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