Significant privacy issues in new child welfare laws, watchdog says

Ontario’s privacy watchdog is calling for greater privacy protections in new child welfare laws which will give the Ministry of Children and Youth Services broad powers to collect, use and disclose personal information.The new privacy section of Bill 89, the Child, Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA), will be the first time that many service providers like children’s aid societies are backed by personal privacy laws.When the new rules come into effect, they will require service providers like children’s aid societies to get consent when collecting information, and to report serious privacy breaches to the privacy commissioner’s office.However, because the Ministry is subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and not these new laws, it is not under the same privacy obligations. “(FIPPA) is a very old piece of legislation and in my view is outdated, and doesn’t have the kinds of privacy protections that are required in this era of big data,” said Brian Beamish, Ontario’s information and privacy commissioner. Article Continued BelowBill 89 will also give the Ministry additional broad powers to collect, use, and disclose personal information, an authority that they already have under FIPPA, he said.In addition to mandatory privacy breach reporting to his office and a consent-based model for collecting personal information, his recommendations for privacy safeguards include re-identifying records used by the Ministry when analyzing data, and creating a separate unit that will do this analysis. These areas are important enough that they should be addressed up front in the legislation, Beamish said.