Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Alberta Government, Privacy and the Weakest Link

The trust of the innocent is the liar's most useful tool. - Stephen King

Learning to trust is one of life's most difficult tasks. - Isaac Watts

The Wildrose Party of Alberta, the Province’s official opposition, revealed an email today written by Darren Cunningham, the Director of Operations for the Premier of Alberta.

Here is the content of the email:


In Question Period today in the Alberta Legislature, the Wildrose Party attempted to make issue of this email and the costs that allegedly resulted from the request made by Mr. Cunningham (as explained on their website here).

Frankly I don’t think cost is the issue.  A few thousand here, a few thousand there – it’s all chump change when it comes to government budgets and in truth, the Wildrose Party (and any political party for that matter) can be dinged for wasting money just as easily.

As for the notion of piggybacking political gain on the backs of the people who were wiped out by the floods this year in Alberta, it is a terrible thing to do but politicians have done this since the beginning of time.  If you don’t like stuff like this, then turn your back on most politicians.

However, there is something important here that I am surprised the Wildrose Party didn’t appear to catch and presents a larger concern to me.

It is the fact that this email identifies a number of people inside the inner circle of the Premier of Alberta, one of the most influential politicians in Provincial / State politics in North America.

And it reveals that one of the people identified in this email, the staffers of one of these people or someone within the IT infrastructure of the Government cannot be trusted with the confidential information that they are privy to.

Why it matters.

The Premier of Alberta has partaken in many government and corporate sessions where the details are private for a number of reasons – either politically, diplomatically, national security-wise or some other perfectly legitimate reason, including the protection of corporate or personal information.  Much of this information could be very damaging if it were released inappropriately or to inappropriate recipients.

What this leak reveals today is that someone within this inner sanctum or someone attached to them cannot be trusted to honor the trust bestowed upon the Government and the safekeeping of the complex myriad of information that the Government requires in order to be effective.

Until we discover who is responsible for the leak, any piece of information communicated to or within the Premier’s Office must be considered as a candidate to be leaked if the leak serves someone’s need.

It’s like whispering secrets to the local busybody.  It’s not a matter of if the information will be shared but when – if the gossip is juicy enough, of course.

That’s the great challenge in regards to protecting sensitive information in the modern era.  We can wrap as many layers of technology and legislation around it as we want but it only takes one individual with an ulterior motive to undermine all of it.

The money allegedly misspent as a result of the aforementioned email can be recovered somewhere and in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t even register.

However, I think trust, once misspent, is not so easily recovered and therein lies a warning for all of us to strive harder to protect it.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


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