News Release: Joint Submission Calling for Reform to BC’s Privacy Laws

BC FIPA and BCCLA recommend key changes to BC’s Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA)

VANCOUVER, August 17, 2020 – BC’s Personal Information and Protection Act (PIPA) is in need of reform. That’s the finding of the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) and BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) in a joint written submission to the Special Legislative Committee.

FIPA previously made an oral presentation to the Special Committee on June 9, 2020. Our joint written submission with the BCCLA builds on the recommendations we had put forward in our oral presentation, along with suggesting new areas for reform. 

“The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted our growing reliance on technological platforms, as well as the necessity of increased privacy protections,” says FIPA’s Executive Director, Jason Woywada. “We believe that this review period provides BC with an opportune time to proactively address the shortcomings of PIPA to ensure that we are keeping pace with the rapidly changing local and global privacy protection standards. We hope that our submission will assist the Special Committee in its deliberations for PIPA reform.”

Amongst other things, our joint written submission calls for: greater public education so that individuals are more aware of their privacy rights and for businesses to know their responsibilities; for specificity, clarity, and accessibility in organizations’ privacy policies; enhanced credentials of privacy officers in organizations processing highly sensitive or large-scale personal information; definitions of terms such as “de-identified information,” “anonymized information,” “pseudonymized information,” and “aggregate information”; enhanced privacy and security requirements for de-identified information and information shared between public and private entities; and addressing the legislative gap which enables private entities to exercise public functions while displaying a lack of transparency on how personal information is collected, used, and disclosed. 

We look forward to the Special Committee’s report in early 2021, and following that, government action on those recommendations. Our written submission can be found here

FIPA would like to thank and recognize the following for their continuous support, assistance, and input to this submission:

FIPA: Advisor Dr. Colin Bennett, Board member Nazli Jelveh, Member Samantha Delechantos, Former BC FIPA Executive Director Vincent Gogolek. 

Contributors: BC Civil Liberties Association, BC Government and Service Employees’ Union, Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Jason Woywada, Executive Director
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association
(e) | (p) 604-739-9788

Joint letter on data collection and privacy in the COVID-19 era.

BC FIPA, along with other civil society groups, has signed on to Open Media’s joint letter calling for measures to be put in place to ensure Canadians’ right to privacy is protected, and not undermined after the crisis is over.

Specifically, we are asking for a clear message from the provincial and federal governments stating that they will not turn to digital tracking and location data collection to address COVID-19 concerns.

With that in mind, we are looking to pre-empt potential bad policies by putting forward seven key principles that should be in place to preserve our privacy and our democracy:

  1. Prioritize approaches to help people stay at home which do not involve surveillance.
  2. Due process for adopting any new powers.
  3. Consent must be favoured.
  4. Put strict limits on data collection and retention.
  5. Put strict limits on use and disclosure.
  6. There must be oversight, transparency and accountability.
  7. Any surveillance efforts related to COVID-19 must not fall under the domain of security, law enforcement or intelligence agencies.

More information on these principles can be found here.

Transparency, Privacy, and the Federal Election

It is election season, and the leaders of Canada’s political parties are making promises, presenting platforms, and answering questions about plans and policies.

The next Government of Canada will have to take positions on transparency reform, privacy in a digital age, democracy and Big Data, and the regulation of increasingly-intrusive surveillance practices.

We want to make sure that the information and privacy rights are part of the public conversation during the election period, and we want your help!

Send us an email at and share the information and privacy policy questions that you would like to see answered by the federal political parties.

We will be compiling an Election Questionnaire, just as we did during BC’s last provincial election, and sending it to the major parties.

The election is on the horizon, so we hope to hear from you soon!

We are Recognizing The Tyee for Outstanding Reporting Related to Surveillance and Privacy

On June 27th, 2019, at our Annual General Meeting, we’ll be presenting The Tyee with an award that recognizes their outstanding reporting related to surveillance and privacy. (More information about our AGM and registration.)

As a nonprofit society, the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association holds an Annual General Meeting. We like to make our AGMs engaging by inviting a guest speaker to give a talk related to information and privacy rights. This year, we are excited to welcome Bryan Carney, Director of Web Production at The Tyee, as our AGM guest speaker. Bryan’s talk is entitled ‘Accountability Cannot Be Automated’.

FIPA’s Directors and Staff thought that this would be a good opportunity to recognize The Tyee for its consistent attention to stories related to surveillance and privacy. Investigative reporting and insightful writing by Tyee contributors have broadened and informed public debates about a range of important privacy rights issues, including these 2018-2019 examples:

The last few years have seen a welcome across-the-board increase in media attention to surveillance and privacy, driven by, among other things, the Cambridge Analytica scandal, increasing public concerns about Big Data and the power of social media, the ongoing expansion of government surveillance powers, and a steady churn of massive data breaches. There have also been some positive shifts in the tone and scope of media coverage, and we have seen an increased willingness to pose big questions and examine structural and systemic problems.

Despite these developments, many media organizations still struggle with the task of connecting specific surveillance and privacy issues to both the lived experiences of individuals and broader trends like surveillance capitalism.

This is why we are so impressed with The Tyee’s work on these topics. The Tyee consistently publishes detailed and informative stories that examine the everyday dimensions of surveillance practices, address their implications, and pose vital questions about accountability and the adequacy of legal and institutional privacy protections. And, while The Tyee does provide reactive coverage and follow-up reporting when important privacy rights issues are broken by other media organizations, it is also tenaciously proactive, posing questions, following leads, and using FOI and Privacy requests to further original reporting. We would not know what we know about TransLink data sharing, RCMP social media snooping, or the BC connection to the Facebook scandal without the work of Tyee contributors and editors.

So, on behalf of FIPA, kudos to The Tyee for continued excellence in reporting on these vital topics. I am glad that Bryan Carney will be at our AGM to accept this award on behalf of The Tyee, as he has had a hand in many Tyee stories on privacy issues. To The Tyee’s staff, editors, and contributors, I hope that this award serves as recognition of a job well done and an affirmation of the value of continuing to invest in the ‘privacy beat’. We are at a pivotal moment in the history of privacy rights, and we have yet to adequately grapple with the challenges posed by Big Data, surveillance capitalism, the Internet of Things, and the security state. We need more detailed, forward-thinking journalism in this area, and other media organizations would do well to follow in The Tyee’s footsteps.

By Mike Larsen (President of the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association)