B.C. strengthens privacy legislation

Government moves to protect personal information because of risk posed by U.S. Patriot Act

British Columbia is strengthening its privacy legislation in the face of a “minimal and largely theoretical” risk posed by American legislation.

B.C.’s Management Services Minister Joyce Murray introduced amendments in the legislature in response to the USA Patriot Act.

“Our government takes the issue of privacy protection very seriously and has always been a national leader in privacy protection,” said Murray. “These amendments will make already strong legislation even stronger. British Columbians can be assured that no sensitive personal information will be sent to the U.S. on either a temporary or permanent basis.”

Effective immediately, the province is introducing what it calls "tough new privacy protections" into legislation and into contracts with service providers in response to the Patriot Act. These amendments include:

•Placing restrictions on public bodies and service providers storing, accessing or disclosing personal information outside Canada.

•Extending the restrictions that already apply to public bodies to public employees, service providers and employees and associates of service providers.

•Requiring public bodies and service providers to report any foreign demand for disclosure of personal information not covered by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

•Protecting whistle-blowers who report a foreign demand for information.

•Creating offences for violation of the new privacy protection provisions, including fines of up to $500,000 for a corporation, up to $25,000 for a partnership or individual service provider and up to $2,000 for an employee.

In addition to amending the legislation, the province will ensure that all service delivery contracts where personal information is involved will be with companies based in Canada and subject to Canadian and B.C. law, and that all personal information remains in Canada.

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