September 26 – Oct 2 is Right to Know Week!

Today kicks off our celebration of Right to Know Week, dedicated to the promotion of freedom of information worldwide. Originating in Bulgaria in 2002, the right to know movement is celebrated by approximately 40 countries and 60 non-governmental organizations on September 28 every year.

Privacy Commissioner of Canada calls for submissions on consent and privacy

B.C.’s Personal Information Protection Act (“PIPA”) sets out how the province’s 380,000-plus private-sector “organizations” can collect, use, and disclose personal information. Personal information held by a federally regulated organization, such as a bank or telephone company; however, is protected by the federal Personal Information and Electronic Document Act, or “PIPEDA”.

Swiping away privacy?

This post is the first in a series of essays from students in Political Science 370, The Politics of Surveillance, a University of Victoria course taught by Dr. Colin Bennett. By sharing these posts on its blog, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner hopes to facilitate discussions about privacy and access issues. The views expressed, of course, are those of the authors.

Privacy Awareness Week 2016 celebrates 10 years

Each year in the beginning of May, privacy professionals around the world celebrate Privacy Awareness Week (PAW). Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, the initiative was started by the Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities (APPA) back in 2006 to promote and raise awareness for numerous privacy issues and the importance of protecting information.

“We are at the dawn of a watershed change in the amount of data out there about us. It is created by us, about us. The stakes are high: will we use it for personal insight, and to build smarter, more sustainable communities, or will we use it for control, surveillance, and profit? Only by understanding the revolution already underway can we debate where we want it to go.” – Nora Young, The Virtual Self: How Our Digital Lives Are Altering the World Around Us (McClelland & Stewart, 2012).

New study asks, "Who's tracking whom?"

They’re like having your own personal trainer – at a fraction of the cost. But findings from a study by researchers at the University of Toronto reveal that fitness trackers, the popular wearable devices that track our steps, calories, sleep, and other data, may also be tracking us.

“The best weapon of a dictatorship is secrecy, but the best weapon of a democracy should be the weapon of openness.” Niels Bohr. Danish physicist (1885-1962).

Tips and tricks for Fraud Prevention Month

We’ve all experienced it: a suspicious email, a nuisance call, or offer that’s just too good to be true. From pyramid schemes to spammers and scammers, Canadians lose millions of dollars every year to electronic fraud.

Why we should care about Apple’s battle with the FBI

In our complex digital age, tensions between law enforcement agencies and tech companies continue to tighten. I do not underestimate the challenges posed by international terrorism, particularly after recent attacks around the world. But I wonder: what is proper oversight and supervision of the surveillance activities of national security and law enforcement agencies?

“Last Thursday, I released a report about a breach involving a lost portable hard drive containing the educational data of 3.4 million individuals. Information assets, particularly the personal information of citizens, deserve the same respect, rigour and control as the management of financial assets… a loss, for example, of $3.4 million would be highly unlikely.” -- Elizabeth Denham, Information and Privacy Commissioner for B.C., from a speech to the 17th Annual Privacy & Security Conference, Victoria, B.C., Feb.5, 2016.

Minding the gaps

The digital economy requires no passport… no special visa. But there’s a problem: different legal systems and cultural norms about privacy make the flow of information across borders a complicated undertaking.

“In my view, privacy and research are partners, not adversaries, in the pursuit of better health outcomes. Protecting privacy and promoting research are both laudable public policy goals and both are important to British Columbians.” - Elizabeth Denham, Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia, Op ed, Vancouver Sun, Thursday, August 16, 2012.

Is a BYOD program right for you?

“Bring Your Own Device” or BYOD is becoming increasingly popular for many private sector organizations. But balancing the protection of corporate information with customer and employee privacy rights can be a challenging exercise, involving policy, training, and technical solutions. Here are some tips to consider.

Toying with privacy

From talking dolls to miniature versions of Mom and Dad’s cell phones, tablets, and smart watches, store shelves are piled high this season with the latest versions of internet connected toys. As digital technologies advance, more connected toys will come onto the marketplace. Here are some tips to protect your family's privacy.

“Bill C-51 opens the door to collecting, analyzing and potentially keeping forever the personal information of all Canadians in order to find the virtual needle in the haystack. To my mind, that goes too far.” Daniel Therrien, Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Op ed, The Globe and Mail, Friday, March 6, 2015.

Building Bridges

Last week, my office was proud to host an important conference in Vancouver called Privacy and Access 20/20: The Future of Privacy. The conference sessions were thought-provoking, timely and prescient.

“Historically, privacy was almost implicit, because it was hard to find and gather information. But in the digital world, whether it's digital cameras or satellites or just what you click on, we need to have more explicit rules –not just for governments but for private companies.” - Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, Wired.com (Nov 12, 2013)

“I believe privacy as a fundamental value is important to us. The Internet has not diminished its importance to citizens and consumers. Privacy is about preserving our sense of self. Private time and private space are necessary to reflect, share intimacies, create friendships and address problems. Privacy means we, not others, control what information we share, and in what contexts.” - Elizabeth Denham, Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia, Op ed, Vancouver Sun, Friday Jan. 28, 2011.

Out of office tips and tricks

It’s not always possible to get all your work done in eight hours. Sometimes taking work home is unavoidable. But whenever personal information is accessed outside of the office there is an increased risk that it could be lost or compromised. Public bodies and private organizations must keep paper and electronic records safe and secure as required by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“FIPPA”) and the Personal Information Protection Act (“PIPA”).

Anti-spam tips and tricks

When Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL) came into effect on July 1, 2014, our email inboxes became a lot easier to manage. But spam can still find its way onto computers. More than merely annoying, these unwanted emails can launch malicious spyware into our inboxes and compromise our privacy. Fortunately, there are some simple actions you can take to help minimize the risk.

Upcoming conference to probe future of privacy

On Nov. 12 and 13, the OIPC will host “Privacy and Access 20/20: The Future of Privacy" with our partner, Reboot Communications. The conference will bring stakeholders from the public, private and non-profit sectors together at the Coast Coal Harbour Hotel for some thought-provoking, content from experts in industry, government, academic institutions and civil society. Here are some thoughts on the topic from Commissioner Elizabeth Denham.

Addressing growing caseloads

The Information and Privacy Commissioner receives hundreds of complaints and appeals from British Columbians each year. These numbers have increased significantly in recent years. And we aren’t alone: privacy and access to information commissioners in Canada and beyond are experiencing big increases in case volumes that are challenging them to deliver timely service to the public.

Happy FOI Friday!

Have you ever wondered how to make a Freedom of Information request? Read on to review an infographic that explains each step in the process.

Your Right to Know: 8 books for your shelf

Every year I look forward to Right to Know week, because it gives us a chance to celebrate and acknowledge the value of access to information rights. As an avid book-lover and dedicated book-club member, it seemed like a good opportunity to share some of my top picks for books that could find a home in the "access to information" section of your bookshelf.

Right to Know Week is here

The purpose of Right to Know Week is to raise awareness of our rights to access government information. Right to Know also promotes freedom of information as an essential element to both democracy and good governance. Here are some other Fast Facts about Right to Know Week:

“I believe that a guarantee of public access to government information is indispensable in the long run for any democratic society…. if officials make public only what they want citizens to know, then publicity becomes a sham and accountability meaningless.” - Sissela Bok, Swedish philosopher (1982).

Statement about Right to Know Week

B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham released the following statement in recognition of Right to Know Week, Sept. 28 to Oct. 4, 2015: “I am delighted to join my colleagues across Canada and around the world in celebration of Right to Know Week. This international movement raises awareness of the rights of all citizens to access information that is held by public bodies. It also showcases the benefits of open and accessible government."

Welcome to the new OIPC blog

I'm pleased to welcome you to the OIPC Privacy and Access Blog. With our new blog, we hope to demystify, inform and share our work with you. We’ve created a space for in-depth commentary, the latest news about access and information, surprising facts about privacy and access in British Columbia, interesting quotes, tips about how to better protect your personal data and much more. We hope you’ll join the conversation.