Passport Privacy

Two recent newspaper stories about the death toll from the tsunami are accompanied by a photo of the passports of two Canadian children who survived. In an appalling lapse of judgement, personal details – up to and including passport numbers – are clearly legible. Having survived the tsunami, these children now bear the indignity and risk of having their information (possibly enough to steal their identities) published across the country. This kind of thoughtless behavior is surely not deliberate, but journalists are in the business: they should know better. Two newsrooms with two editors published the photo; a wire service and an image service supplied them; none had the sense to protect the information. I am not a lawyer, but it strikes me this may run afoul of Canadian privacy legislation. Media organizations should be held legally liable for this kind of reckless behavior. The responsible parties – Southam, AFP, and Getty Images – should at least arrange for new passports (with new passport numbers) for their victims.

2004-12-30

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