October 22, 2010
B.C.’s Privacy Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, has just released Privacy Guidelines for Landlords and Tenants.
In B.C., landlords and property managers acting on their behalf must comply with B.C.’s Personal Information Protection Act (“B.C.’s PIPA”). The guidelines are intended to assist landlords and property managers in discharging their duties under B.C.’s Residential Tenancy Act in a manner that respects the privacy of tenants and promotes transparency in the operation of landlord and tenant relationships.
Despite the B.C. focus, landlords and property managers in other jurisdictions would be well-served by reading the guidelines – especially given that B.C.’s PIPA is “substantially similar” to PIPEDA.
October 20, 2010
Does your office have a copy machine? If so, then this post is worth reading. CBC news has just released the results of an investigation that exposes the security risks associated with modern copy machines, specifically, the ease at which information scanned into certain copiers can be tapped. Just think about the information that gets scanned into your office copier. Personal information. Confidential corporate information such as client data. Even intellectual property. It’s a scary thought if you haven’t done your due diligence, especially considering that privacy laws can apply to certain data undoubtedly scanned into your copy machine. Check out CBC’s online story here or TV segment here. And if you’d like to learn more, you may also want to read my post from earlier this year which provided a link to a similar CBS news story.
October 8, 2010
The recent headlines over the Veteran Affairs Canada privacy breach should serve as a useful reminder to all organizations – public and private sector – of the necessity to implement internal policies and procedures for the management of personal information. Much attention is paid these days by the media to privacy breaches that involve external parties, such as hackers, who foil the security safeguards of organizations. However, in my experience the bigger threat to privacy if often from within an organization.
In this recent case involving Veteran Affairs, a veteran had filed a complaint with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (“OPC”) alleging that Veterans Affairs had violated the Privacy Act by including excessively detailed and sensitive medical information in briefing notes to the Minister of Veterans Affairs. The complainant also alleged that Veteran Affairs had transferred his medical file to a hospital administered by Veterans Affairs without his consent.
The OPC has issued the following formal recommendations to Veterans Affairs, but they should also serve as useful recommendations to other organizations:
- Revise existing information-management practices and policies to ensure that personal information is shared within the department on a need-to-know basis only. Personal information, including but not limited to sensitive medical information, should not be shared with programs that have no operational requirements for access to such information.
- Provide training for employees about appropriate personal information-handling practices.
- Review procedures to ensure that consent is obtained prior to personal information being transferred to veterans’ hospitals.”
October 6, 2010
CBC News is reporting that ”[g]arbage bags filled with confidential financial information were found blowing around in a [Winnipeg] North End back lane Tuesday, and people living in the area say they’re furious because of it. The bags contain tax return documents that include people’s names, social insurance numbers and in many cases, addresses and other sensitive financial information.”
This and other similar news stories should serve as a reminder that PIPEDA requires organizations to exercise care in the disposal or destruction of personal information to prevent unauthorized parties from gaining access to the information (for example, don’t dispose of sensitive tax information records in a back lane). Other provincial laws, such as Alberta’s PIPA and B.C.’s PIPA, have similar requirements. Disposal or destruction policies and procedures should focus on physical, organizational and technological measures.
October 5, 2010
Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, released her 2009 – 2010 Annual Report to Parliament on the Privacy Act today. In her Annual Report, Stoddart says that “[t]he federal government’s use of handheld communications devices and its practices for disposing of unneeded paper documents and surplus computers could expose the personal information of Canadians to unauthorized disclosure”.
Key lessons for the private sector from today’s Annual Report include, among other things, (1) a reminder of the need to assess the threats/risks inherent in wireless communications and to fill any gaps in policies and/or practices related to smart phones, Wi-Fi networks and data stored on mobile devices and (2) ensuring that policies and procedures are in place for paper shredding and the disposal of surplus computer equipment.
Read the full Annual Report here>>.