More voices raised in concern over BC Government’s ‘cradle-to-grave profile of each citizen’

BC’s Minister of Social Development Stakes Government’s
Reputation on Safety and Privacy of new Integrated Case
Management System

Controversy is growing over the BC government’s new $182 million
Integrated Case Management (ICM) system now being rolled out
across BC.

The ICM system will create a database of unprecedented scope and
detail about the lives of people using government services, and allow
the government to share that information almost at will.

FIPA has been sounding alarm bells about the ICM system since we
published a report in 2010 called Culture of Care…or Culture of
Surveillance?

Now the Victoria Times-Colonist has joined us in sounding the alarm. In a lead editorial earlier this month, the newspaper stated:

“The government’s argument for building this system recognizes no
limiting principle. It is basically open-ended. We’re being told that
bureaucrats need a cradle-to-grave profile of each citizen to combat
various knowledge gaps. But where does that end?

“Add personal medical records, and no doubt it would be easier to track contagious diseases like hepatitis. But it would also disclose who had an abortion. Identify victims of domestic violence, and crime prevention might become more effective. But how would the victims feel about being exposed?

“Sooner or later, on this expansive theory of oversight, personal privacy is extinguished.”

Minister Defends the System

BC’s Minister of Social Development, the Hon. Stephanie Cadieux,
disagreed in a published response stating, “ICM provides a better way of organizing and protecting information with enhanced security and privacy features. Staff can only access information that they need to do their job, and alerts and flags placed on files will help to ensure appropriate sharing of information when necessary that can help to avoid tragedies.”

Read more here.

Cadieux also stated that “The B.C. privacy commissioner has been involved at every stage of the development of ICM and has stated in writing there is no objection to the project.”

Information and Privacy Commissioner Distances Herself from the ICM Program

But Commissioner Elizabeth Denham objected to the Minister’s statement in a letter posted to her website. The letter corrects the Minister, stating, “My office is not involved in the development of government systems or programs and we are not an approval body of such systems or programs. It is important that the public understands that accountability for program and computer system design and implementation rests with the public body.”

The stage is now set. The Minister says ICM is “safe, secure and accessible, while protecting and supporting personal privacy.” Others (including FIPA are voicing serious concerns about how our data is being collected, used and disseminated inside and outside government.

We fear that BC may suffer a UK-style data disaster. In the United Kingdom and elsewhere, surveillance systems of this nature have been abandoned due to privacy concerns and huge cost overruns. (Read more here.)

We believe it is only a matter of time before the Minister is proven wrong.

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Read the former Information and Privacy Commissioner’s message on Data Sharing Across Government here.