B.C. introduces privacy legislation

Government says business prefers made-in-B.C. solution over “complicated” federal privacy law

The British Columbia government has introduced new privacy legislation which will define the kind of personal information that businesses, non-profit organizations and charities can collect from employees, clients, customers and volunteers.

The Personal Information Protection Act, introduced April 30 in the provincial legislature, also sets out what can be done with the information collected.

Sandy Dantori, B.C.’s Minister of Management Services, said the legislation will ensure personal information is protected, stimulate further online business transactions and open doors to international trade. She said it will give citizens more control over how their personal information is obtained and handled, while at the same time allowing businesses and agencies to collect, use and disclose information for legitimate business purposes.

“This is a good, practical piece of legislation,” said Dantori.

Dantori said it will open doors to international trade because other jurisdictions, such as the European Union, require trading partners to have privacy protection laws.

Currently, businesses in B.C. can use clients’ personal information for any purpose, including marketing, without the client’s permission. This has led to individuals receiving unwanted sales pitches for merchandise or services, or requests for financial support, when the organizations they have dealt with have shared client information with others.

A federal law, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), is scheduled to come into effect in 2004 for provinces without privacy legislation. (For more on PIPEDA, click on the “Related Articles” links below.)

The provincial government said it consulted with more than 170 organizations in making the decision to introduce the legislation. “These organizations opted overwhelmingly for a made-in-B.C. solution rather than the more complicated federal act,” stated a press release put out by the province.

“The province’s extensive consultation process gave business at all levels the opportunity to express their concerns about this legislation,” said John Winter, B.C. Chamber of Commerce president. “As a result, the legislation is clearly written, practical and will be easy for most businesses to understand and administer.”

The province said it will provide businesses with tools to help them implement the act, such as a privacy checklist for small businesses, staff training information and privacy assessment sheets for larger companies to ensure they are applying the legislation in their daily business.

“(The legislation) provides British Columbians with broader coverage than the federal act and is less complex,” said David Loukidelis, the province’s Information and Privacy Commissioner.

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