Communication tools essential to the public sector’s response to COVID-19 will remain available to staff on the front lines of the pandemic.
Lisa Beare, Minister of Citizens’ Services, extended an order under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA) that has put vital software and technology in the hands of health-care workers, educators and other public-sector staff.
The order was put into place March 26, 2020, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The temporary measure is now set to expire on Dec. 31, 2021.
B.C. is one of two Canadian provinces requiring the personal information of its residents to be stored in – and only accessed from – Canada. This requirement would normally prohibit the use of some communication and collaboration software proven vital to the Province’s work to protect people and communities from COVID-19. For example:
- Patient-care teams can use smartphone apps, text messaging, chat programs and other applications that make it easier to communicate with colleagues and patients during this time of physical distancing.
- People isolating at home can use their preferred chat applications to communicate with public-health officials.
- Post-secondary institutions can provide online and digital learning and exam options as an alternative to in-person classes.
Protecting the privacy of British Columbians is a top priority for the Province and the Ministry of Citizens’ Services. The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner will remain involved as this order is reviewed ahead of its expiry.
- FOIPPA makes public bodies more accountable to the public and protects personal privacy by:
- giving the public a right of access to records;
- giving individuals a right of access to, and a right to request correction of, personal information about themselves;
- specifying limited exceptions to the rights of access;
- preventing the unauthorized collection, use or disclosure of personal information by public bodies; and
- providing for an independent review of decisions made under this act.
- This act does not replace other procedures for access to information or in any way limit access to information that is not personal information and is available to the public.
Ministerial order: https://www.bclaws.gov.bc.ca/civix/document/id/mo/mo/m0192_2021
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in B.C.: http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/96165_00