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Old 11-12-2006, 10:18 AM   #1
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Universities move to hide work from U.S. eyes


From Saturday's Globe and Mail

Concerned about the U.S. government's prying eyes, a number of Canadian universities are changing the way their professors and students conduct online research.

Many university libraries subscribe to RefWorks, a popular U.S.-based Internet tool that allows academics and students to create personal accounts and store research information, as well as generate citations and bibliographies.

But the Patriot Act — which grew out of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and which potentially allows U.S. authorities to sweep through databases such as RefWorks — has prompted Canadian postsecondary institutions to abandon the American server for one housed at the University of Toronto.

“There is certainly concern within Canadian university libraries. It's a concern about a foreign country having access to your personal information without good cause,” said William Maes, librarian at Dalhousie University in Halifax. “That's the devious thing of the Patriot Act, they can do this without letting anybody know.”

With RefWorks, professors and students set up personal accounts on the U.S. database and can then save journal titles for their research records. Amid heightened fears about terrorist activities, Canadian university officials worry that if the research is of a sensitive nature, it could be misunderstood.

For example, an academic researching North Korea or nuclear weapons could find the work flagged by the Bush government, university librarians fear. As a result, Dalhousie, Memorial University of Newfoundland and the University of Alberta are among the institutions that have switched to the Canadian server.

The hope is that data on a Canadian server will be protected from the Patriot Act, which gives authorities virtually unlimited investigative powers.

Mr. Maes said it is still possible for the RCMP and CSIS to probe the Ontario server, but in Canada there is at least judicial oversight.

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