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Privacy Commissioner applauds dismantling of database

OTTAWA, May 29, 2000-The Privacy Commissioner of Canada Bruce Phillips is extremely pleased that Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) is taking steps to address the concerns about privacy he expressed in his 1999-2000 Annual Report released May 16.

The Privacy Commissioner was responding to HRDC's announcement it will dismantle the Longitudinal Labour Force File (LLFF), a database whose existence was highlighted in his annual report.

"The decision that Minister Jane Stewart made to dismantle the Longitudinal Labour Force File reflects her recognition of the importance that Canadians place on their right to privacy in their dealings with government," said Phillips. "That Canadians care deeply about their privacy rights has been made abundantly clear by the public reaction to the news of the existence of the LLFF."

The Commissioner sees the department's decision as a recognition that departments can discharge their responsibilities and do the necessary research for the benefit of Canadians without sacrificing their privacy.

The Privacy Commissioner's concern about databases that make it possible to construct personal profiles of individual Canadians lay at the heart of his objection to the LLFF. At the same time, he recognizes the need of the government to have sufficient information on which to base sound public policy and program decisions.

In the Commissioner's view, the measures outlined by the Minister balance Canadians' right to privacy and the government's need for information on which to base policy decisions.

"We are particularly pleased by the decision to revise the department's research protocol through the creation of an external advisory committee, the development of a protective legislative framework for future research and an ongoing process of consultation with the Commissioner on privacy-related matters."

Particularly important in the Commissioner's view is the decision to put in place a system for regular reporting to the public on these matters, thus ensuring necessary transparency.

"I have no doubt," said the Commissioner, "that these steps will greatly reinforce public confidence in HRDC's management of Canadians' personal information. My experience is that when Canadians are informed about the uses of their personal information, they are only too ready to extend their trust and cooperation. I am sure that the Minister's measures will enhance and fortify that trust and confidence."

"The Minister's response to this issue is consistent with the sensitivity she has displayed when important privacy matters have been brought to her attention by my office," said Phillips.

For more information, please contact Susan Wheeler at 613-943-5549 or 1-800-282-1376.

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