Technology companies clash on cross-border flow of digital data under NAFTA

OTTAWA – Some Canadian information technology companies are pushing back at warnings that the personal information of Canadians is being compromised in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

They see nothing wrong with a proposal by the United States that would forbid the storage of sensitive data in computing facilities on Canadian soil.

They say data should be allowed to flow freely across borders, like other products, and that the privacy of Canadians would not be compromised.

“Privacy and national security elements are part of the discussion, but they shouldn’t be seen as the entire discussion,” said David Messer, a vice-president of the Information Technology Association of Canada.

“It’s about allowing businesses to operate how they see fit and not necessarily fragmenting the internet.”

That view is clashing with another industry group, the Canadian Council of Innovators, which is calling on the government to resist the U.S. proposal, citing concerns over the U.S. Patriot Act and “less stringent” restrictions on access to data for U.S. companies.

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