This past Thursday, the interns gained valuable insight on the role(s) of the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner, Brian Beamish and the Assistant Commissioner David Goodies. Established in 1988, the IPC oversees the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) and the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA).
We learned that the Information and Privacy Commission plays a fundamental role of ensuring these Acts are effective with government and the public. FIPPA applies to provincial ministries, most provincial agencies, boards and commissions, as well as to universities and colleges, while MFIPPA covers municipal institutions such as municipalities, police, library, health and school boards, and transit commissions. We also learned that PHIPA regulates the collection, use and disclosure of personal health information within Ontario’s health-care system.
Together, these three Acts establish the rules for how Ontario’s public institutions and health care providers may collect, use, and disclose personal information. Furthermore, the Acts provide the public with a right of access to information. How does the IPC manage to ensure all of this runs smoothly?
The role of a Commissioner is fascinating, given that the Commissioner is an Officer of the Legislature, who is appointed by and reports to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and is independent of the government of the day. Both the Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner shared the significance of liaising and collaborating with the public and private sector to raise awareness about privacy-invasive communications as well as data processing technologies. They also discussed the role that information technology plays in collecting and storing data in Ontario. According to the Commissioner, “times are changing and we have to change with it”.
Thank you to the Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner for taking the time to meet with us, and for sharing their expertise on privacy and information issues. We are certainly inspired by the way in which you regain Ontario’s position as the leader in Canadian privacy and information protection!