Canada may become a data safe haven under Trump administration

As newly instated U.S. president Donald Trump is making moves to censor scientific data at several public federal agencies, some are turning to Canada as a safe haven for data backups.

A range of climate change information was scrubbed from the White House website just hours after the inauguration of President Donald Trump on Jan. 20, and several Canadian companies and research organizations have volunteered to store copies of the valuable data.

Vancouver-based data archiving company PageFreezer has been one of the first to step up, partnering with DataRefuge, a group of U.S. scientists and environmentalists working around the clock to ‘rescue’ the climate change information that is slowly being wiped from U.S. federal websites.

“I reached out to [DataRefuge] and told them we have this complete web crawling archive infrastructure in place, and I believe what you are doing is important, and I want to provide our platform,” Page Freezer CEO Michael Riedijk says in an interview with Nora Young on CBC Radio’s Spark.

And with Trump’s administration saying they are also in the process of reviewing the content on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website after ordering the removal of its climate change page, this has become a race to the finish line.

Cross-border academic collaboration

Researchers at the University of Toronto (UofT) have also begun making backup copies of the data from U.S. government servers, working with data curators at the University of Pennsylvania library and non-profit group Internet Archive, which has an ongoing project to archive government websites before the Trump administration has an opportunity to take down even more information.

“We are going to be feeding the web crawler of the Internet Archive to make sure that we are prioritizing websites and materials that are likely to be changed rapidly when the Trump presidency starts,” Michelle Murphy, director of the technoscience research unit at UofT, explained to CBC Radio’s Carol Off, host of As It Happens. “We’re also looking at data sets that might be vulnerable to becoming less publicly accessible and we’ll be nominating those to be put into the Penn [University of Pennsylvania] repository.”

Murphy and her team of researchers hosted the Guerilla Archiving event on Dec. 17 in Toronto, which called upon tech-savvy people to help in identifying endangered programs and data, and figuring out how to extract such data for Internet Archive. She says she hopes the event will be recreated elsewhere.

Wayback Machine backup

The Internet Archive, which maintains the Wayback Machine and preserves a digital record of the web, announced shortly after Trump’s election that it would be building the Internet Archive of Canada. In a blog post, Archive founder Brewster Kahle wrote that the new administration was promising radical change and the Archive needed to make moves to keep cultural materials safe if the web were to face greater restrictions.

“Throughout history, libraries have fought against terrible violations of privacy – where people have been rounded up simply for what they read,” he writes. “At the Internet Archive, we are fighting to protect our readers’ privacy in the digital world.”

Kahle made a call for donations to help support the new Canadian data copy.

With notes from Brian Jackson

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Mandy Kovacs
Mandy Kovacs
Mandy is a lineup editor at CTV News. A former staffer at IT World Canada, she's now contributing as a part-time podcast host on Hashtag Trending. She is a Carleton University journalism graduate with extensive experience in the B2B market. When not writing about tech, you can find her active on Twitter following political news and sports, and preparing for her future as a cat lady.

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