Vancouver – FIPA, BC’s leading advocacy group for freedom of information and privacy rights, is declaring legislation introduced this week by the BC Liberals “an enormous leap for privacy rights.” But the group is also warning that the law will be a failure unless the government gives BC’s Information and Privacy Commissioner adequate resources to enforce it.
The Personal Information Protection Act will require every private-sector organization in BC to institute a privacy code regulating the way they collect, use and disclose the personal information of clients, customers and employees.
“The new act is a breakthrough for privacy rights at a time when personal privacy faces unprecedented threats,” stated Gerry Fahey, president of the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA). “People are concerned about the explosion in the amount of information about them that is being collected and scrutinized in the private sector, and they are concerned that this information has passed totally out of their control.”
“This act goes a long way in giving citizens some control over their information and making organizations responsible and accountable for their practices, but it will only be enforceable and effective if the government devotes the necessary resources to it.”
“The act mandates a strong oversight and enforcement role for the Commissioner, but the budget of the Commissioner’s office has just been slashed by 35 percent,” continued Fahey. “The office has lost much of its staff and is already overwhelmed just with enforcing the current freedom of information act.
“The government must show it is serious about FOI and privacy rights by giving the office the resources it requires to fulfill both its current mandate and this new responsibility.”
The legislation gives the public new privacy rights, including the right to consent to how their personal information is collected, used and disclosed; to see the information organizations collect about them; to demand that false information be corrected; and to make complaints to BC’s Information and Privacy commissioner if the law is broken.
FIPA was part of a government consultation process over the new act that lasted over six months. “We were pleased at how far the bill progressed. We’re not saying that the act is perfect, but we give it a high “B” grade,” stated Fahey.