The first significant changes in more than two decades to information privacy and information freedom acts in Saskatchewan will tighten up security, but also make more information available.
Two new acts were introduced in the legislature on Monday: The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment Act, 2016 (FOIPP) and The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment Act, 2016 (LAFOIPP).
The acts govern how much of a person’s information is considered personal, how and when it can be released, as well as what information can be requested from which public institutions.
The changes were introduced thanks to recommendations made by the Information and Privacy Commissioner Ron Kruzeniski.
The changes to privacy include expanding privacy requirements to MLA and cabinet ministers offices and their employees. This means that if a citizen were to send a letter or have a conversation with someone at the office, any private information would have to be kept secret by law instead of just convention.
Kruzeniski said there will also be a duty to protect.
“They have obligation to protect (private information), safeguard it – if it’s on a computer, have proper security.”
And a new offence was added for if a person snoops through someone’s personal information.
Several changes were also made to how people can get information through Freedom of Information legislation. Government will now have a duty to help someone get the information they’re looking for, instead of just saying no or yes.
Police services in Saskatchewan will also now be subject to the act, to provide things like policies, procedures, and budgets, whereas previously they had been exempt. Though Kruzeniski said this doesn’t mean people will be able to get everything they want.
“There will be a codified entitlement to more information, but not necessarily all the information about me if they’re doing an investigation about me.”
Exemptions are being developed for things like investigations, informants, and seized documents.
As the acts hadn’t been significantly amended for 22 and 23 years, some changes had to be added to take into account technological advances.
Kruzeniski said public bodies will now have to make their manuals, policies, and procedures available online instead of available to those who go to the office and ask for them.
There’s also a requirement written in that if the information is stored electronically, it should be given electronically if it’s practical. This could make it easier to get information, as well as more cost-effective.
Kruzeniski said he’s pleased with the changes, and though not all of his recommendations made it in to the final legislation, he says it’s progress.