B.C. to guard privacy against Patriot Act

B.C. to introduce privacy rules as it tries to contract out data-keeping jobs to U.S.-owned firms subject to Patriot Act privacy

British Columbia has announced plans to stop any far-reaching effects the U.S. Patriot Act may have on the privacy of people in B.C.

The province will introduce rules this fall to forbid Canadian subsidiaries of American companies from handing over private information to American law enforcement agencies.

Under the Patriot Act, passed in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, U.S. agencies are allowed access to the information in the name of U.S. homeland security.

Civil liberty and privacy activists say there's an easier way around the Patriot Act – stop contracting out government data services to American-owned companies.

The province is currently negotiating seven different contracts where private information could be exposed under the act, including financial and medical records.

Geoff Plant, B.C.'s attorney general, says the Patriot Act presents "a small and largely theoretical risk to personal information" collected in B.C.

The B.C. Government and Service Employees Union (BCGEU) has already gone to B.C. Supreme Court to try to block what it calls privitization of the Medical Services Plan.