Recently I have become aware of a few facts about privacy in British Columbia. I knew B.C. had strict laws and that FIPPA (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act) was important. As I teach adults, not children, I thought that I didn’t have to worry more than being careful about what I shared online. According to Hengstler’s (2014) on the FIPPA compliance continuum I was firmly in ignorance, aware of the concept, unaware of the details or how it applied to me.
My first step to deepening my understanding of BC’s privacy laws was to go to the document itself. I discovered that a public entity must store personal information collected in Canada unless consent is given and the information must be kept safe from unauthorized use (FIPPA, 1996). Fortunately, the university where I teach has been working hard to ensure compliance as employers have a “responsibility to inform educators of their FIPPA responsibilities” (Hengstler, 2014, pg. 4).
While I understood that those who work with children must be concerned about privacy as any digital information could present a risk (Hengstler, 2013); I work with adults. There is the belief that only those adults who have something to hide need privacy, a belief which is deeply flawed (Solove, 2007) as everyone needs to know how to protect themselves on-line (Cooper, Southwell & Portal, 2011). Individual privacy is usually threatened in slow, small steps as data is ‘mined’ from a number of sites and aggregated (Solove, 2007).
The Vancouver Island University (VIU) Privacy Guide (Cooper, Southwell & Portal, 2011) shows that I am not doing enough to ensure my students’ privacy. As some on-line assignments require students to give personal information, I should have them complete a student user agreement and a student consent agreement (Cooper, Southwell & Portal, 2011). Fortunately the VIU Privacy guide has some samples. Regulations and laws are constantly evolving as technology and risks evolve (Hengstler, 2013). It is important the educators and their employers are kept up-to-date on current best practice.
Cooper, S., Southwell, J., & Portal, P. (2011). Privacy Guide for Faculty Using 3rd Party Web Technology (Social Media) in Public Post-Secondary Courses. Vancouver Island University & BC Campus Publication. Retrieved from https://www.viu.ca/foipop/documents/Privacy_Guide_SocialMedia_Cloud_PostSecondary_Classes_2011.pdf
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, RSBC 1996, c.165, online: BC Laws: Current Consolidated Law < http://www.bclaws.ca/Recon/document/ID/freeside/96165_00>.
Hengstler, J. (2013, May 17). A K-12 primer for British Columbia teachers posting students’ work online. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://jhengstler.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/a-k-12-primer-for-british-columbia-teachers-posting-students-work-online/
Hengstler, J. (2014). The Compliance Continuum: FIPPA & BC Educators. Retrieved from https://www.dropbox.com/s/ridcqq14a7k9543/Compliance_Continuum_5_06_14-1.pdf
Solove, D. (2007). “I’ve got nothing to hide” and other misunderstandings of privacy. San Diego Law Review, 44, 745-772