The Provincial Government has implemented a number of changes to improve how it handles personal and private information, Citizens' Services Minister Ben Stewart announced today.
"Protection of British Columbians' private and personal information is a top priority for this government," Stewart said. "We committed to improving the system and we have put the policies and education programs in place to do that."
Earlier this year, government received reports on three investigations that had been undertaken in response to a 2009 incident where police found records containing personal information on 1,400 clients of the ministries of Children and Family Development and Housing and Social Development in the home of a government worker.
The province's Chief Information Officer and the BC Public Service Agency undertook investigations to determine how the privacy breach occurred and why several months elapsed before senior government officials were informed and the affected clients notified.
The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner also conducted an independent investigation.
Following the delivery of the two internal reports on Jan. 29 Stewart committed to taking action within 90 days that included reviewing the recommendations and determining which ones would be implemented. Cross- government implementation was led by Deputy Minister to the Premier, Allan Seckel.
Steps taken already include:
* Centralizing responsibility for responding to privacy breaches in the office of the Chief Information Officer.
* Implementing a new policy on criminal record checks for government employees.
* Putting in place a policy that deputy ministers and the head of the Public Service Agency must be notified whenever a government employee is arrested for, charged with or convicted of a criminal offense.
Beginning immediately, a mandatory and compulsory government-wide training program is being delivered that will ensure everyone working in the BC Public Service understands their roles and responsibilities in protecting citizens' privacy. More extensive training will be delivered to employees who directly deal with confidential information.
"British Columbia citizens need to be confident that government will protect their privacy and we are working hard to build that trust," Stewart said.
A special committee of the British Columbia Legislature is currently reviewing the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The committee is mandated to release its report by May 31, 2010.
The Jan. 2010 Privacy Breach Reports are available online at www.cio.gov.bc.ca/cio/priv_leg/reports_links.page