May 8, 2013

New Privacy Emergency Kit helps organizations prepare for a crisis

During Emergency Preparedness Week, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is encouraging organizations to be prepared to address privacy issues during a time of crisis.

Personal information can play an important role in an emergency situation.  Uncertainty around the sharing of personal information could result in unnecessary confusion and delays – and have significant consequences for people.

Privacy laws should not be considered a barrier to appropriate sharing, nor should they be used as an excuse for inaction.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has developed a Privacy Emergency Kit to help public and private sector organizations subject to federal privacy laws to enhance the timeliness and content of communications during an emergency, while also giving people confidence that their personal information will be handled appropriately.

This guidance was developed in consultation with several provincial and territorial privacy oversight offices across Canada. 

“Our new guidance emphasizes that it is critical for both private and public sector organizations to consider privacy issues in advance of an emergency situation in order to avoid problems in the event of a crisis,” says Privacy Commissioner of Canada Jennifer Stoddart.

Before an emergency, organizations need to understand the privacy laws that could apply to the situation and make the best preparations, such as drafting policies and information-sharing protocols.

Taking proactive steps to anticipate information flows in emergency situations is part of a sound risk management strategy for any organization.

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