This week a shocking case was revealed in which the sensitive personal information of a federal government critic was examined by hundreds of government employees. According to the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, the BC government is moving forward with unprecedented plans for personal information sharing that will make this kind of privacy breach inevitable – and they are also pursuing legislative amendments in order to make such practices legal.
“What we have seen in Ottawa is already happening here,” said FIPA Executive Director Darrell Evans. “And rather than working to minimize privacy threats, the government is spending hundreds of millions to make our personal information more accessible to more people both inside and outside government.”
Earlier this week the story broke of how a former soldier and prominent critic of the federal Ministry of Veterans Affairs had his personal information, including financial, medical and psychiatric records, widely circulated across the department. Literally hundreds of employees had access to his most sensitive personal information, and some of it was put into briefing notes for the Minister himself. Other bureaucrats and ministerial staff used the sensitive personal information to prepare to attack their client’s credibility.
The government of British Columbia has specifically stated that their aim is to increase this kind of data sharing, both across ministries and with outside contractors, in order to provide “citizen centred services”. In their presentation to the Special Committee of the legislature examining the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, senior government officials demanded that the Act be changed to allow more data-sharing inside and outside government, with reduced privacy protections.(See the government submission)
“We have seen serious security breaches this year involving electronic records in BC, yet this government is spending hundreds of millions to create new systems like the Integrated Case Management system, which will accelerate the data sharing problem,” said Evans.
“This scandal in Ottawa shows what can happen when very sensitive personal information is made widely available with the click of a button. The B.C. government needs to step back while these practices are reconsidered. BC’s Information Commissioner is still waiting to see a Privacy Impact assessment on information-sharing that is required by law and was due two years ago.”
Community organizations sound the alarm on BC government’s $180 million program to collect and share personal information: http://privacyresearch.wordpress.com/
FIPA denounces waste of $180 million on program to collect and swap ‘unprecedented amount of personal information’ on citizens: https://fipa.bc.ca/home/news/236
FIPA report “Culture of Care…Or Culture of Surveillance?” http://www.ucscoop.com/uploads/documents/PCSO_Report_FINAL_March_2010%282%29.pdf