Thursday, April 26, 2007

Google Search Blocks Canadian's Entry into U.S.

An alarming report from Tuesday’s Globe and Mail:

Nearly 40 years ago, a young psychotherapist embraced two-thirds of LSD guru Timothy Leary's advice to the Sixties generation to "turn on, tune in and drop out." Curious how LSD and other hallucinogens might be used in treating patients, Andrew Feldmar turned on and tuned in himself. But he never dropped out. And, no fan of the late Dr. Leary, Mr. Feldmar took his last hit of acid in 1974.

Thirty-two years, however, turned out to be but an instant in the long, unrelenting U.S. war on drugs. Last summer, in an incident that has just come to light, Mr. Feldmar, now 66, was banned from entering the United States because of his long-ago use of LSD. Because Mr. Feldmar had never been charged with possession of the once-popular illegal drug, privacy advocates are even more alarmed by the way U.S. border guards at the busy Peace Arch crossing near Vancouver found out about it.

The guards simply looked up Mr. Feldmar on the Internet and discovered his own article about using LSD, written for the scholarly, peer-reviewed journal Janus Head.

Eugene Oscapella, an Ottawa lawyer involved in privacy issues for 20 years, said the incident sends a frightening message to Internet users, particularly those who bare their souls online. "Don't ever put anything about any illegal activity on the Internet," Mr. Oscapella warned yesterday. "It leaves a digital footprint for all to see, and it's there forever. "We've gone beyond Orwellian measures. The state can now do things with a flick of the switch that used to be incredibly labour intensive."

In an earlier posting, I discussed the many risks that bloggers take in exposing personal information on the Internet with respect to employment and personal relationships. What’s most shocking about this incident is that Mr. Feldmar has never been convicted of a criminal offence and has crossed the border into the United States numerous times without issue. More disturbing than the power that border guards seem to wield is the fact that Mr. Feldmar felt compelled out of fear to sign a confession:

Mr. Feldmar was held at the border for five hours, before being allowed to return to Canada after signing an admission that he had once violated the U.S. Controlled Substance Act. He said he signed out of fear that he might be kept in custody even longer if he refused.

Willie Hicks, public affairs officer for the border crossing, said yesterday that Mr. Feldmar admitted violating U.S. drug laws "in a sworn statement. "I don't make the laws. That's the policy, and we enforce the laws at the border. It is up to the discretion of our officers who gets to go across."

A major blow to free speech and another reason to think twice before putting any of your personal information on the Internet.


Mimi Lenox said...

I'm always thinking about the personal identification issue online. It seems almost impossible to get around and the consequences are frightening. Thanks for helping keep the facts out there.

Thanks for stopping by Mimi Writes.
Have a great weekend!

One Eyed View said...

Thank you for posting this, very interesting (and disturbing). It's interesting that there are so many people posting so many things online with not having the slightest thought of what will come back to haunt them. It will be interesting to see in the next 20, 30, or 40 years what "internet archive investigations" will reveal about future presidential canidates, etc.


Beth said...

It is sad that we have to worry this. It seems we are slowly losing any rights that we may have. I still blog what I want - to hell with all of them - and I am certainly not going to run for president...

Geoff said...

As a Canadian that's been pulled out of line twice while crossing the border at the airport, I find this article extremely disturbing. It's not just the privacy violations that are upsetting here, but the fact that this man was forced to sign a confession under duress, to be used against him in the future (since there was no formal record). I would be very curious to know how and where this data gets stored, and whether or not it can be used against him in a scenario that is not U.S.-specific (entry into Europe, for example). U.S. border control has been treading some very dangerous water lately IMO.

Anyway, thanks so much for posting this! :-)