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06.06.10

Microsoft Wants Canada’s Health Records, Telus Gives Them Away

Posted in America, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 1:17 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Canada

Summary: More news from Québec; Telus and Microsoft threaten Canada’s sovereignty just shortly after Microsoft’s deal with a Canadian government was ruled illegal

Microsoft is a threat to national sovereignty. Fortunately, citizens of Québec boldly challenged Microsoft and won [1, 2]. It was a victory for software freedom and a partial translation of this article in French was posted by the operators of p2pnet.net.

“It’s a very good decision for us,” Le Devoir has Cyrille Béraud, president of Savoir-Faire Linux, a company that promotes free software which challenged the validity of the contract awarded to Microsoft by the Québec Pension Plan (QPP).

“But it is also a great victory for the Government of Quebec” which “now has a tool for liberation from the stranglehold of the multinationals on its information system”.

Justice Denis Jacques said the QPP had failed in its duty by awarding a contract for $722,848 to Microsoft distributor Compugen.

“The Court considers that a tender would have to compete various suppliers who could offer unique solutions to meet the needs of the board,” wrote the judge.

“It’s a decision that will set a precedent,” said Beraud, who’s been “battling for years against Microsoft’s monopoly in the equipment of public administration”.

Since we promised more complete coverage of this case, here are South African and Canadian perspectives, as well as a new report from AFP:

A Quebec court ruled a provincial agency was wrong to install Microsoft software on its computers without allowing others, such as Linux dealers, to bid on the lucrative contract, AFP learned Friday.

The province’s public pension fund administrator (Régie des rentes du Québec) spent 720,000 Canadian dollars (686,000 US) beginning in the fall of 2006 to install Microsoft software on its computers.

Quebec Superior Court Judge Denis Jacques ruled the province should have searched for alternatives as required by its own rules for expenditures over 25,000 dollars (24,000 US).

There are two more articles about it — ones which we haven’t referenced before:

Microsoft dealer Compugen of Richmond Hill, Ontario received the contract. Montreal-based Savoir Faire Linux deals in open-source software, and in March 2008, he’d filed a lawsuit. A bid to cancel the contract by Savoir Faire Linux was not approved as the software installation had been finished then. The Company had granted the costs of its litigation.

This is worth celebrating as a GNU/Linux triumph over Microsoft corruption. Rules were being broken, based on a court’s decision.

As we showed a couple of days ago, Microsoft continues its entrance into the Canadian Government. The decision above was not strong enough as a deterrence and Microsoft is now striving to control Canadian patients too. A few months ago, Microsoft hired a top FDA official for the role/purpose of lobbying to take over patient records in the United States and right now the US-based company is trying to control healthcare in Canada too. It covers the whole of Canada, probably Québec included. Coverage that we’ve found so far includes:

Canada’s third-largest wireless carrier, is creating an online medical database with Microsoft Corp. to expand its telecommunication services to the health-care industry.

The service is powered by Microsoft HealthVault and allows patients to manage personal and health information using a secure online platform. Applications include health records, tools for diabetes management and resources such as fitness and wellness solutions.

Here is what the New York Times had to say, emphasising that it’s about the databases (“Microsoft in Venture for Health Database in Canada,” says the headline). No matter the circumstances, giving to Microsoft databases of Canadian patients is a breach of privacy, especially given compliance policies with governments that request snoops (see this leaked manual).

According to a site with Microsoft influence, the Health and Human Services Department accepts the inexcusable, but that’s the United States, not Canada. Giving sensitive data to untrustworthy companies is a massive mistake, especially for countries overseas/outside the US.

Health and Human Services Department officials and executives from Google, Microsoft and other technology companies today encouraged the public to explore and develop applications for the department’s newly released health data in its Community Health Data Initiative.

Those who allow this to carry on do a great disservice to their citizens and lead to increased risk, even elevated costs. Private businesses can do as they wish, but when Microsoft interferes with government operations (including public schools), then it’s a different story altogether. That’s what makes it a sensitive issue that directly affects a lot of citizens.

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