Friday, October 22, 2004

BC Unions continue to slam privacy impact of outsourcing of IT services

More on the BC outsourcing privacy front: The British Columbia Government Employees' Union continues to attack the outsourcing of IT services, using privacy fears related to the USA PATRIOT ACT:
Privacy risks for 'hundreds and hundreds' of B.C. contracts

Gordon Campbell Liberals outsourcing IT contracts to U.S. companies

Vancouver - The British Columbia government has admitted that "hundreds and hundreds" of provincial contracts will be vulnerable to privacy concerns despite the passage of new controls by the legislature.

The province is in the process of outsourcing B.C. information technology (IT) contracts to American companies. The U.S. firms are subject to the Patriot Act, a sweeping piece of legislation passed following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

American courts have already ruled that the Patriot Act takes precedence over any privacy protections enacted by foreign governments.

Critics, led by the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE), are strongly opposed to outsourcing of IT contracts because of this vulnerability.

Meanwhile, Joyce Murray, B.C.'s government services minister, acknowledged this week that the strengthened legislation will only apply to contracts signed after Oct. 12, not to "hundreds and hundreds" of already-existing contracts.

No deadline for compliance

Contracts signed prior to Oct. 12 will be brought into compliance with the new legislation "as soon as possible," Murray told MLAs in the legislature. However, she did not indicate how long this might take.

Diane Wood, the BCGEU's secretary-treasurer, says the revelations by the minister make an even stronger case against outsourcing IT contracts. In effect, U.S. companies awarded IT contracts will have no alternative but to break the law, she says.

“If they comply with the Patriot Act, they break B.C.’s law. If they follow our legislation, they risk prosecution in the United States,” Wood notes.

She also objects to the province forcing the amendments through the legislature before the B.C. Privacy Commissioner files a report on the Patriot Act and its potential impact on B.C. outsourcing contracts.

“The only way to ensure that our personal and confidential information is fully protected, is to keep it in our own government where it belongs,” says Wood. NUPGE"

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