Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (Script 235)
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- 1 Freedom of information
- 1.1 You have a right to certain information
- 1.2 How do you ask for information?
- 1.3 How long does a public body or an organization have to respond?
- 1.4 Some information isn’t available
- 1.5 What can you do if your request for information is refused?
- 1.6 What if an organization’s personal information about you is wrong?
- 2 Protection of privacy
Freedom of information
You have a right to certain information
BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (called FIPPA in this script) gives you the right to see many records kept by provincial government ministries and other public bodies - including records of your personal information, such as your name, address, age, employment history, educational background. Public bodies include provincial government ministries, local municipalities, public schools and school boards, hospitals and health authorities, local police forces, colleges and universities, and self-governing bodies such as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia and the Law Society of British Columbia.
How do you ask for information?
How long does a public body or an organization have to respond?
FIPPA gives public bodies 30 business days to respond to your request. They can’t charge you any fees for your own personal information, but they can charge you fees for finding, copying, retrieving, and producing records not related to your personal information. You can ask them to waive the fees if you can’t afford them, or if the information is in the public interest.
Private organizations also have 30 business days to respond to your request. They can’t charge you a fee for your own employee personal information. But they can charge a small fee to access your other personal information—not employee personal information.
Some information isn’t available
Under FIPPA, you may not be able to get certain records, such as Cabinet records, someone else’s personal information, court files, current work files of the Auditor General or Ombudsman, or certain information if its release or disclosure would harm private business interests. You may also not be able to see information if its disclosure would harm a law enforcement matter, or harm people or public safety.
What can you do if your request for information is refused?
If a public body or private organization refuses your request, or if you’re not satisfied with its response, you can ask BC’s Information and Privacy Commissioner to review the response. There’s a time limit of 30 business days to make this request to the Commissioner. The Commissioner is an independent officer of the provincial Legislature who reviews the decision and can order a public body or private organization to release information that FIPPA or PIPA gives you the right to see. See the Information and Privacy Commissioner website for information on how to ask for a review.
What if an organization’s personal information about you is wrong?
An organization must make reasonable efforts to ensure that your personal information is accurate and complete. You can ask a public body to correct any factual error or omission (but not opinions or judgments) in your personal information. If the public body refuses your request, FIPPA requires them to mark your information with the correction you requested. You can also ask a private organization to correct any inaccurate personal information. If you are not happy with the decision of the public body or organization, you can ask the Commissioner to review it.
Protection of privacy
You have a right to privacy
Both FIPPA and PIPA protect your right to privacy by regulating how public bodies and private organizations collect, use, and give out (or disclose) personal information. Public bodies and organizations can use personal information only for the purposes they collect it for, unless they get your consent to use it for another reason. Organizations and public bodies must ensure that they don’t give out personal information without proper authorization.
What if you’re upset with how your personal information is being handled?
If you disagree with how your personal information is being managed, you should first complain directly to the public body or organization about how it collects, uses, or discloses your personal information. If that doesn’t help, you can file a complaint with the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
Where can you find more information?
Check the Information and Privacy Commissioner website. You can also phone the Office at 250.387.5629 in Victoria. For toll-free access, call Enquiry BC (604.660.2421 in Vancouver and 1.800.663.7867 elsewhere in BC) and ask them to connect you.
For information records, send your written request directly to the public body or private organization that has the information you want.
[updated January 2018]
The above was last reviewed for accuracy by John Blois.
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