A recently disclosed privacy breach at giant US-based information broker Choicepoint points out the need for a new law in Canada to help protect potential victims of identity theft, say two consumer and privacy advocacy groups — the Canadian Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC).
Choicepoint is the largest of a number of data brokers that specialize in collecting personal information about individuals and selling it to businesses and governments for marketing, background checks, and other purposes. Choicepoint’s 19 billion public and private records are organized into detailed digital dossiers on millions of individuals and made available to a wide array of clients including insurance agencies, employee screeners, direct marketers, media outlets, and law enforcement agencies.
For more information, see:
Consumer Coalition calls for stronger ID theft protection in Canada
Identity Theft: The Need for Better Consumer Protection (PIAC, 2003)
US Privacy Advocates news release in response to Choicepoint disclosure
EPIC webpage on Choicepoint
EPIC webpage on California “Shine the Light” law
EPIC letter to Choicepoint re: privacy breach
Ottawa, January 27, 2005 – The Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Jennifer Stoddart, is pleased to announce that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) is awarding $49,775, under its Contributions Program, to the British Columbia Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) for a special study on identity theft.
“The theft of personal information facilitates a wide range of other criminal activity, from financial fraud to organized crime and terrorism. It is a privacy issue of major concern to our Office, and I am delighted to be able to work in partnership with the British Columbia Freedom of Information and Privacy Association on addressing this issue,” said Ms. Stoddart.
Other awardees receiving research grants under the Contributions program include:
Canadian Marketing Association
École nationale d’administration publique (ÉNAP)
Universities of Alberta and Victoria
University of Toronto
University of Victoria
Simon Fraser University
BC FIPA has compiled a table of the recommendations of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia (OIPC) regarding amendments to the BCFreedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and their level of implementation by the government. Very few of the recommendations have been implemented.
Download the table (pdf).
Britain’s Freedom of Information Act came into force on January 1, 2005. Will it create a more open government in spite of Britain’s notoriously secretive government culture?
Under the act, anyone, of any nationality, living anywhere in the world, will be able to request information held by more than 100,000 public authorities and other designated non-governmental organisations in Britain, and expect an answer within 20 working days, usually free of charge save for the cost of copying, printing and postage. Only where the costs of retrieving and collating the information are above £600 for a central government department … or £450 for other public bodies … can a full charge be made or the request refused on the grounds of expense … It will be a criminal offence to destroy data for which a valid request has been made under the act.
Special report and features on Freedom of Information, The Guardian newspaper
UK Government freedom of information web site
Free to Distrust
Comment by Prof. Alasdair Roberts