BC’s privacy law contravenes the TPP


Federal government summary states domestic data storage requirements are banned under TPP 

VANCOUVER, October 8, 2015 – The BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) is expressing concern that certain legal requirements in BC’s privacy law will be undercut by the now-finalized Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal.

According to a summary of the TPP posted by Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, the finalized agreement “includes provisions protecting the free flow of information across borders” and “prevents governments in TPP countries from requiring the use of local servers for data storage.” But as FIPA has pointed out before, these provisions directly contradict privacy laws in both BC and Nova Scotia, which require that their residents’ sensitive personal data—from educational records to medical records—be stored on Canadian soil.

“If the federal government summary is correct, then BC’s privacy law is at risk,” said FIPA Executive Director Vincent Gogolek. “It is unacceptable to have citizens’ privacy rights bargained away in a trade agreement.”

Section 30.1 of our Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) clearly requires public bodies to “ensure that personal information in its custody or under its control is stored only in Canada and accessed only in Canada.” This section was enacted in 2004 after public outcry over the outsourcing of BC’s pharmacare information to a US company.

There is no mention of reservations or carve-outs for BC’s privacy law in the summary of the TPP released by the federal government.

FIPA has used Freedom of Information requests to try to find out how the BC government has been discussing the TPP and FIPPA, so far without success. The first request—which asked about a conference call between the Ministry of Citizens’ Services and the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR)—yielded no records, and the second—which asked for Ministry of International Trade’s records relating to the TPP’s potential effects on FIPPA—has been delayed until November.

“We need to see the final text of the agreement to determine just what the federal government has signed on to,” Gogolek said.

Fortunately, a Special Committee of the Legislative Assembly is conducting a review of FIPPA, which will include hearing from witnesses. FIPA will be appearing on Friday, October 16th, and will be encouraging the Committee to call government officials to speak on the record about this vital issue.

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Contact:

Vincent Gogolek, Executive Director
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association
vincent@fipa.bc.ca | (o) 604-739-9788 | (c) 604-318-0031