Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Article: Your privacy rights get little protection from folks in Victoria

Some folks in BC are more than a little mad about the provincial public insurer selling personal information to parking lot operators:

The Province - Your privacy rights get little protection from folks in Victoria

Jon Ferry
The Province - Wednesday, February 25, 2004

This Sunday is not simply a day that comes along once every four years. It is, I'm told, the 100th anniversary of the first vehicle registration in B.C.

Despite repeated attempts, however, I've been unable to get hold of B.C.'s $175,000-a-year privacy commissioner, David Loukidelis, to ask him why his office lets ICBC sell your licence- plate information -- at $5 or $6 a pop -- to Impark and 13 other parking-lot operators.

I also wanted to ask him whether he approves of this practice -- which many of you clearly don't. "I just finished reading your article on ICBC's selling of our personal data to private parking lot firms," writes Levan Turner of Victoria. "And I must say I am HORRIFIED!!!!"

But Mary Carlson, a director in Loukidelis's office in Victoria, told me her boss was in Santiago, Chile, on a U.S.-government-sponsored trip. And, while I was sad not to reach Loukidelis, I was glad to find we don't have a budding Radwanski here -- and that it's the freedom-of-information-loving U.S. taxpayers who'll be footing his travel bill.

Carlson, meanwhile, defends ICBC's legal right to sell your plate information. She argues that, under B.C.'s privacy laws, "public bodies can use or disclose information for the same reason it was collected in the first place." She notes that at least part of the info ICBC collects from you is needed for managing the highway system -- and that, under B.C. motor vehicle law, parking lots are part of that system. So, for that matter, is "every private place or passageway to which the public, for the purpose of the parking or servicing of vehicles, has access or is invited." In other words, it includes everything from your local muffler shop to the back yard parking lots beside the PNE.

Now, I think a good lawyer, paid handsomely, could drive a truck through Carlson's argument. I mean, the reason parking lot operators need your plate info is NOT to manage our highways. It's to make more money for themselves -- and make up for deficiencies in the management of their lots.

And you have to question the morality of a government monopoly like ICBC selling the info it requires from you, to assist in doubtful private debt collection. I don't buy ICBC's argument that it's required to so by law. Unfortunately, Nick Geer, ICBC's $300,000-a-year CEO, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

B.C.'s milquetoast privacy-protection system needs a shakeup. And I'd be happy to get Uncle Sam to fly me to the land of South America's finest wines to speed the process.

In the meantime, have a happy 100th vehicle- registration anniversary. And don't forget to contact your MLA to get him or her to stand up for your privacy rights. As things stand, there's obviously little protection for them in Victoria.

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© The Vancouver Province 2004

1 comment:

Unknown said...

That's a very curious situation that seems very similar to the one my sister is in currently. I didn't realize that there were so many issues involved with ICBC. It sounds like it might be a good idea for her to find a lawyer that can help her through the issues she's having to make sure that her rights are protected.