Darrel Evans, executive director of BC FIPA, was in Victoria today to deliver a speech at the BC Library Association Annual Conference on Bill 38, BC’s Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA).
After extensive consultation and input from organizations like BC FIPA, Bill 38 has turned into a real privacy bill what BC FIPA describes as an “enormous leap for privacy rights.”
However, there are still concerns, especially with regards to the drastic cuts made to the budget of the Information and Privacy Commissioner who will oversee PIPA.
There are also areas that could be improved such as issues like grandfathering, exceptions to consent, reduced rights of employees, limits to access and correction provisions, and the broad exception for the loosely defined “investigative purposes”.
On the whole, BC FIPA believes the legislation to be a very good one. Hopefully, the government will use this constructive criticism to make the bill even better.
Read the full text of the speech (pdf).
Bill 38 is a very good piece of privacy legislation and a breakthrough for privacy rights at the provincial level. BC has shown strong leadership among the provinces in moving forward with a private-sector privacy bill that has real teeth. For this, great credit is due to yourself and also to Chris Norman and Sharon Plater, the officials at the Corporate Privacy and Information Access Branch who have conducted the public consultation process and the development of the legislation.
However, Bill 38 is not flawless. In our news release of May 2, 2003, BC FIPA’s president stated, “We are pleased at how far the bill progressed [during the consultation process]. We’re not saying that the act is perfect, but we give it a high “B” grade.”
FIPA has stated clearly to the government, the media and the public that we support Bill 38 because its merits greatly outweigh its flaws. In endorsing the Bill, we recognize how far the government moved to improve and strengthen it during the consultation process. Nevertheless, we must state that we are in substantial agreement with most of the points the Privacy Commissioner has raised. We urge the government to consider the substance of the Privacy Commissioner’s comments seriously, and if at all possible, make improvements to the Bill in the areas in which he has expressed concern.
Read BC FIPA’s complete comments to the Minister (doc).
BC FIPA has published a list of key recommendations for reform to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (the Act).
FIPA calls for a number of improvements:
- reinforcing the ‘public interest’ provision under s. 25;
- limiting what the government can do without consent;
- increasing the responsibility of public bodies to respond fully to requests and in a timely fashion;
- introducing whistleblower protections;
- improving the rules regarding retention and destruction of documents;
- narrowing the exceptions under s. 14 and 15;
- extending the scope of coverage of the Act to the Legislative Assembly;
- reviewing all the statutory exceptions from the Act; and,
- revisiting the budget of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
Read the full recommendations (pdf).
FIPA has submitted comments on the federal government’s Lawful Access Consultation Document to the Department of Justice, Industry Canada, and the Solicitor General today. The federal government initiated consultations earlier this year and BC FIPA hosted two workshops on the Lawful Access proposals and received input from over 45 groups and individuals that have helped inform its position.
FIPA disagrees with the government’s views with regards to the level of privacy that should be accorded to emails, with the expansion of police powers to unprecedented levels (rather than simply extending the same level of power to new technologies), with the promotion of new powers despite a lack of evidence of the need or effectiveness of these powers, and with the vagueness of the proposals.
FIPA recommends that electronic communications be held to a high threshold before it can be accessed and that legislation be amended to reflect this threshold, that government put together a well-argued system for privacy protection for private communication that is independent of form of communication, that the government provide the evidence that forms the basis for these proposals, that government present draft legislation based on the comments provided in submissions like this one, and that the government provide the public with an opportunity to comment once it has put together the information requested in these recommendations.
We must be vigilant to ensure that the right to privacy of Canadian citizens is only limited by such measures that are truly required, reasonable, demonstrably justified, effective and proportionate to the ends to be achieved. The proposals in the Consultation Document show clearly that these requirements have not been met.
Read the full submission (pdf).