How much does your privacy matter?

How much does your privacy matter? Open letter to the Yukon public: There are more than 100 boards, committees, tribunals, councils and agencies that operate in the Yukon doing the extended work of government.

Open letter to the Yukon public:

There are more than 100 boards, committees, tribunals, councils and agencies that operate in the Yukon doing the extended work of government. The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which provides for public scrutiny and the protection of your personal information, does not apply to many of these groups.

Until June 30, the Yukon government is seeking feedback about what criteria should be used for designating new “public bodies” under the ATIPP Act.

It’s important that you take the opportunity to tell them.

On first thought you might not think the work of boards, committees, tribunals, councils and agencies has an influence on your daily life – but you might be surprised. These groups assist school operations throughout the territory, decide which businesses can sell alcohol, license professionals, allocate social housing to applicants and make thousands of decisions about funding.

In doing that work they regularly request, use and keep your sensitive financial, legal and medical information. The public expects the law protects their personal information, but in the hands of these groups this may not be the case.

The spirit and intent of the ATIPP Act is only meaningful when the scope of the act includes all bodies that conduct functions on behalf of government.

Today, there is a real question about whether many of the more than 100 boards, committees, tribunals, councils and agencies doing the extended work of government must comply with the law.

The dual purpose of the ATIPP Act is to make public bodies more accountable to the public and protect personal privacy. It grants citizens the right to access government information, and public bodies are required to protect the privacy of your personal information.

Public bodies can only collect as much information as they need to operate or deliver programs and they cannot share personal information without your consent.

I have urged the government to designate all boards, committees, tribunals, councils and agencies, that collect, use and disclose personal information, as public bodies to ensure that Yukoners’ personal information is protected and that those groups are accountable to the public.

It is only in the most extraordinary of circumstances that any body resourced with public money should be considered for exclusion from the law.

I appreciate such a designation may place an administrative or financial burden on bodies that have previously not turned their minds to their access and privacy responsibilities in any meaningful way. However, concern about these issues should not be a deciding factor in determining the degree of accountability or privacy protection that should be afforded to citizens.

If you want your opinion heard, the consultation document and draft criteria are available at http://www.atipp.gov.yk.ca/1261.html.

For more information or assistance in providing your comments to government you can contact my office at e-mail@ombudsman.yk.ca, or call 867-667-8468 or toll free 1-800-661-0408 ext 8468.

Tracy McPhee

Yukon information and privacy commissioner

Whitehorse