The Special Committee to Review the Personal Information Protection Act released its report with recommendations titled Modernizing British Columbia’s Private Sector Privacy Law.
“I am strongly encouraged to see many of the recommendations that FIPA, BCCLA, and our partners made to the Committee reflected in the final report” according to Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) Executive Director Jason Woywada “There is one deeply concerning gap, but we recognize this is a work in progress.”
FIPA and the BC Civil Liberties Association’s (BCCLA) main concerns focus on Recommendation 20. This recommendation would enable private companies, without consent, to collect, use and disclose the personal information of British Columbians and share it with law enforcement for unspecified investigations. This is an erosion of civil liberties and privacy. It blurs the lines of law enforcement when private companies act in conjunction with police agencies to advance their corporate or business interests without appropriate oversight. It sets a dangerous precedent evidenced in conflicts around BarWatch, and TransMountain pipeline protests.
“This can make private companies an investigative arm of the state without appropriate safeguards or oversight.” according to Meghan McDermott, Policy Director for BCCLA.
The open consultative process that was followed by this Committee stands in stark contrast to the approach that the BC Government recently took in amending the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. We are grateful for the work of the Special Committee to Review the Personal Information Protection Act and heartened to see that the report was informed by submissions from a broad cross-section of civil society. It is a testament to a functioning democratic system to see all parties of the Legislative Assembly work together to reach consensus on recommendations that advance privacy protections for British Columbians through the legislature.
The key step forward and test will be whether or not the Provincial Government acts on these recommendations. Prompt action would demonstrate BC’s commitment to progressive privacy legislation that responds to current international standards. Inaction would demonstrate further disdain by this government for these important legislative committees and reviews.
As noted in the Office of Information and Privacy Commissioner news release:
“The Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA), BC’s private sector privacy legislation, governs how organizations can collect, use, and disclose personal information. It also requires organizations to protect and secure personal information against unauthorized use or disclosure and grants individuals the right to access their own personal information. Every six years, a Special Committee undertakes a comprehensive review of the Act to determine the effectiveness of the legislation in the current social and economic environment.”