NEWS RELEASE: 2020 Information Summit launches September 30

VANCOUVER, September 17, 2020 – The Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) is pleased to announce the details for our Information Summit 2020 and our first events slated to be held during Right to Know week. 

In prior years, Information Summit has been an opportunity for speakers and professionals to gather, network and explore issues and concepts around information, transparency and privacy. COVID-19 means the all-day conference is not happening, but the opportunity to hear from and ask questions of great speakers on topics that matter remains.  

“Trust through Transparency” is the theme of Info Summit 2020. It will be a series of online Microsoft Teams meetings capped at 250 participants each, held over lunch. Registrants will be able to join, hear brief presentations, and our moderators will facilitate questions from attendees. We have some great speakers and panels in the queue, with more to be announced in the weeks ahead. 

Starting today you’ll be able to register to participate in: 

Transparency and privacy during COVID – September 30th  

BC Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy kicks things off. He will be focusing on transparency and privacy in the context of COVID-19 along with recent work at the OIPC. Given the impacts we’ve seen through this global pandemic be sure to sign up for this event quickly.  

Register and view events details here. 

Troubling Clouds – October 1st  

FIPA’s latest report is titled: Troubling Clouds: Gaps affecting privacy protection in British Columbia’s K-12 education system. This meeting is a virtual face to face with report author Matthew A. J. Levine as he details his findings and recommendations that impact anyone in K-12. The report exposes that whether in the classroom or online BCs patchwork approach impacts the privacy of kids, educator and parents in the system. 

Register and view events details here. 

Learn more about the released report here. 


You will need to register through Eventbrite to guarantee your space. Our first event with the Commissioner is free. Each subsequent meeting will have a flat registration fee of $30.  

Information Summit only happens through generous contributions of time and money from people and organizations. FIPA would like to thank all those whose support helps us deliver quality programming focused on your data and your rights.  

Contact: 
Jason Woywada, Executive Director 
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association 
(E): jason@fipa.bc.ca 
(T): 604-739-9788 


We would like to thank our sponsor:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is BCGEU_Logo_UnionName-Horizontal_RBG.png

NEWS RELEASE: New report highlights gaps in student privacy in BC’s K-12 education system.

VANCOUVER, September 17, 2020 – The BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) has released their latest report Troubling clouds: Gaps affecting privacy protection in British Columbia’s K-12 education system.  

Click here for full report.

 “The government is setting the system up for failure.” according to Jason Woywada BC FIPA Executive Director. “Without the resources, guidance and supports they need, teachers, schools, and districts are making the best of a bad situation. The result puts personal information in the system at risk.” 

The project started in 2018 when FIPA began hearing from educators, parents and students with questions and concerns about privacy.  Shifts towards cloud-based learning management systems (LMS) were leading to increasing concern and a search for answers. FIPA decided to launch a major research project to explore privacy protection in K-12 education across BC with more rigorous legal research and analysis. 

The project has come to fruition during the COVID-19 pandemic. The public health emergency is leading to even more digitization of workplaces and the education system. The closure of schools was combined with the temporary loosening of privacy safeguards to facilitate the use of online platforms and applications.  

With schools reopening, there are concerns about how students will be physically protected. This report reveals that, whether online or in the classroom, student privacy is being sacrificed by a patchwork approach. It highlights the need to develop systematic solutions for managing the risks going forward. 

“Education shouldn’t come at the expense of teacher and student privacy,”  Woywada  adds. “The recommendations are easily acted upon. Taking these steps will help ensure education doesn’t jeopardize the personal information of the students, parents and educators in the system.” 

We would like to thank lawyer, lead researcher, and project author Matthew A. J. Levine for his hard work on this comprehensive report, and the Law Foundation of British Columbia for their continued support and commitment. Mr. Levine will be presenting on this topic during a FIPA Information Summit 2020 event

Contact: 
Jason Woywada, Executive Director 
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association 
Email: jason@fipa.bc.ca 
Phone: 604-739-9788 


Recommendations 

  1. The Ministry of Education should play a more active role in supporting the procurement of cloud computing services. The Ministry’s strategic role in the public education system and relatively sophisticated information technology capacity should be leveraged to maximize resources, exchange knowledge, and develop best practices for privacy risk management. 
  1. Privacy Commissioner should make use of the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners’ (“ICDPPC”) activities regarding online platforms in public schools. Specifically, 
    1. Actively participate in the ICDPPC Digital Education Working Group’s activities, including the questionnaire that was circulated by the French data protection authority and Canada’s OPC in June 2019, so as to exchange best practices with other jurisdictions; 
    2. In light of commitments and norms embodied in ICDPPC Resolution, formulate a guidance document for public bodies in the education sector so that they may fully comply with their privacy obligations when engaged in contracting out cloud computing services. 
  1. School boards should ensure they have information technology and privacy expertise necessary to: 
    1. Conduct substantive privacy impact assessments on private sector providers of information technology services; 
    2. Develop policies and procedures to assess, approve, and support the use of internet platforms and software applications without compromising students’ privacy rights or shifting the privacy risk management burden; 
    3. Provide training and support for teachers in respect of classroom technology and privacy; 
    4. As required and appropriate, seek valid, informed and meaningful consent from individuals, i.e. students and guardians. 
  1. Ministry of Education and school boards should strengthen co-ordination to: 
    1. Negotiate, as necessary, service agreements with service providers who may be unwilling to negotiate with individual school districts; 
    2. Establish a shared mechanism for rating and otherwise exchanging knowledge about internet platforms and software applications; 
    3. Maintain said mechanism while taking on-board feedback from students, guardians, and teachers. 

NEWS RELEASE: Support for the Heiltsuk First Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, and Tsilhqot’in National Government’s requests for COVID case information

BC FIPA and BCCLA support the Heiltsuk First Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, and Tsilhqot’in National Government’s requests for COVID case information 

VANCOUVER, September 15, 2020 – The BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) and the BC Civil Liberties Association’s (BCCLA) have signed a joint letter to express support for the Heiltsuk First Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, and Tsilhqot’in National Government’s and their requests for information from the BC Ministry of Health on COVID case information. 

Despite repeated requests, the Ministry of Health refuses to disclose information relating to presumptive and confirmed COVID cases proximate to these rural Indigenous communities. This has prompted the nations to make a complaint to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. The Ministry of Health should address these requests and provide information pursuant to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA). 

 “The complaint has a strong factual basis that is grounded in the risks experienced by specific rural Indigenous communities. We think that their ‘right to know’ is strongly supported by S.25 of FIPPA because the requested information pertains to the risk of significant harm to the health and safety of a group of people.” says Jason Woywada, FIPA’s Executive Director. “A crisis of this nature is precisely the time when transparency matters most, and these types of releases should be routine. If government doesn’t already have the necessary data sharing agreements with Indigenous communities in place to address these types of scenarios, they should be working quickly to address that gap.” 

“The Heiltsuk First Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, and Tsilhqot’in National Government have rights to self-determination and self-government, and to be actively involved in developing and determining programs for maintaining the health and well-being of their people” says Meghan McDermott, Interim Policy Director at the BCCLA. “By refusing to share the requested health data (with appropriate confidentiality provisions), the Ministry of Health is essentially preventing these communities from exercising the very rights that the province recognized when it enacted DRIPA.” 

The history of colonization and the impacts of pandemics have disproportionately harmed Indigenous communities. The BC Government can work with Indigenous governments to disclose this information while also protecting privacy, but the Ministry’s failure to provide critical health information not only inhibits the Indigenous groups’ right to self-determination, it renders the province’s repeated commitments to “reconciliation” questionable.  

See for the full letter here.

Take action by supporting the Keep Safe campaign here https://keepsafecampaign.com/ and sign the petition  https://you.leadnow.ca/p/keepsafe

Contact:

Jason Woywada, Executive Director 
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association
(E) jason@fipa.bc.ca 
(P) 604-739-9788 
Meghan McDermott, Interim Policy Director 
BC Civil Liberties Association 
(E) meghan@bccla.org 
(P) 778-679-8906 

Response from BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Assocation (FIPA) on the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) of BC’s special report “Now is the Time: A report card on government’s access to information timeliness”

Vancouver, September 2, 2020 – FIPA is encouraged by the report but discouraged by the climate that gave rise to it. The fact that public bodies have been consistently violating the law is deeply concerning and FIPA urges the BC Government to take this report seriously.  

 “The NDP ran on a platform favouring stronger FOI law in 2017. We haven’t seen them follow through on those commitments in a meaningful way.” according to Jason Woywada Executive Director of BC FIPA . “This report is just the latest evidence, built on years of recognition of systemic delays in BC’s FOI system. FIPA has repeatedly emphasized that ‘access delayed is access denied’ and we hope this report will encourage this government to finally act.” 

“The current pandemic has underscored the vital importance of ensuring timely and accurate access to information. Transparency is not optional in a democracy – it is essential,” adds Mike Larsen, BC FIPA President.  

A transparency system can only be considered functional if it provides members of the public with timely access to the information that they need to participate in the democratic process and to hold public bodies to account. Too often in BC (and Canada), we have seen breakdowns in transparency caused by governments’ failure to adequately resource FOI/ATI offices. When these offices are unable to meet the timelines established by law, the public’s right to know inevitably suffers. Timeliness can be improved, and rights respected when public bodies commit to the prompt and routine proactive release of categories of records of public interest. Transparency should be the default – not a struggle – and this requires deliberate and consistent action to improve the proactive disclosure of records. In 2017, the NDP echoed these sentiments in response to a FIPA questionnaire on transparency and privacy priorities heading into the provincial election. 

FIPA agrees with all of the OIPC’s recommendations but emphasizes that, in addition to taking steps to improve compliance and efficiency, BC’s key piece of transparency legislation – the FIPPA – needs reform. Policy and compliance changes are an important part of this process, but law reform is paramount.  

At a minimum, we expect all public bodies to follow the law, and to comply with all of their responsibilities under FIPPA. This means creating and updating systems and providing the resources necessary for public bodies to accurately and efficiently respond to public FOI requests.  

BC FIPA has been and continues to call for comprehensive reform to FIPPA, which has been echoed by past Special Legislative Committee reports and by the Information and Privacy Commissioner for BC.