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Strengthen privacy breach reporting and penalties now: Wildrose

EDMONTON, AB (January 23, 2014): Alberta’s privacy laws need to be immediately strengthened to ensure mandatory reporting of privacy breaches and strict penalties for those who fail to do so, the Wildrose Official Opposition said today. Acting Health Critic Kerry Towle said Albertans should be notified immediately when their personal information has been compromised, as in the case of the September theft of a laptop containing private health information about 620,000 Albertans. 

“The fact that it took five months for Albertans to learn about this major breach of personal privacy is totally unacceptable,” Towle said. “We need to make the necessary changes to existing legislation to ensure privacy breaches aren’t kept in the dark and those who are affected by them are notified as soon as possible.” The laptop theft was reported to the Privacy Commissioner, but current legislation prevents the Commissioner from making the breach known to both the Minister and the general public. Wildrose proposes including the following language from the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) in the Health Information Act, the legislation currently governing health information: Power to require notification  37.1(1) Where an organization suffers a loss of or unauthorized access to or disclosure of personal information that the organization is required to provide notice of under section 34.1, the Commissioner may require the organization to notify individuals to whom there is a real risk of significant harm as a result of the loss or unauthorized access or disclosure   (a) in a form and manner prescribed by the regulations, and (b) within a time period determined by the Commissioner Penalties for failure to disclose under PIPA can range up to $500,000, another provision Towle said she wants to see in the Health Information Act. “Who knows what other privacy breaches have gone unreported because of the way current legislation is set up?” Towle said. “We are eager to see legislation tabled this spring to make these changes so Albertans can have confidence that protecting their privacy is being taken seriously.”