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. 

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.  

A Comparison of Canada’s Private-Sector Privacy Legislation

This document analyzes BC’s Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) relative to Alberta’s Personal Information Protection Act, Quebec’s Act Respecting the Protection of Personal Information in the Private Sector, and Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. It highlights key differences, provision by provision, in BC’s PIPA relative to other jurisdictions. As it is a side by side analysis of Canada’s private-sector privacy legislation, it allows for a comparison between any of the listed pieces of legislation.  

FIPA created this document to inform its submission to the 2020 Special Committee to Review the Personal Information Protection Act. It was drafted by Jiwan Sangha at FIPA, and reviewed by Konrad Spurek at the BC Civil Liberties Association in June 2020. 

The Table of Contents provide a general outline of the entire document. Clicking a section in the Table of Contents will redirect to the relevant section. The built-in search function may also be used to navigate the document.  

Appendix A contains the amendments made to the analyzed pieces of legislation. It is organized by the numerical section amended, followed by the amending statute, and the content of the amendment. 

Note: Quebec has introduced Bill 64, An Act to modernize legislative provisions as regards the protection of personal information, in June 2020, which calls for substantive legislative amendments that are yet to be assented to. This document will be updated accordingly.  

This document was last updated on August 18, 2020. FIPA aims to review this document annually.  

FIPA_PIPA_Scan_2020 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.  

BC FIPA’s 2019 Annual Report

Looking back at a year of positive change, we are proud of the work we’ve done to further BC’s and Canada’s information and privacy rights landscape.

The 2019 report reflects our ongoing commitment to strengthening FIPA’s position within the information and privacy rights field through legal research, law reform, public legal education, and advocacy and public aid. We will continue to push and advocate for government transparency and freedom of information, surveillance and privacy, and civil liberties.

This report is available as a downloadable PDF. We invite you to explore its content and learn more about FIPA’s work.