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Privacy and outsourcing for federal institutions

January 2014

There is nothing in Privacy Act—the law that covers the personal information-handling practices of federal government departments and agencies—that prevents the outsourcing of data processing.

The Act came into force more than 30 years ago and was not designed for the current digital age that allows for the rapid and easy movement of information around the globe. Our Office has repeatedly asked for provisions around the international transfer of personal data to be subject to a more rigorous legal regime.

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) has developed guidance documents related to outsourcing for federal organizations.

It is important to note that TBS requires all federal departments and agencies to prepare and publish Privacy Impact Assessments (PIA) for any new or substantially modified programs or activities that use personal information for making decisions that directly affect individuals. Therefore, if an institution were to consider outsourcing some of its functions, it may prepare a PIA that describes the impact on the personal information of Canadians and submit it to the OPC before it implemented the program or service. Our Office would then determine whether the PIA required our review and if so we might provide comments and recommendations to the institution.

For more information:

Treasury Board Secretariat Links

Guidance on Preparing Information Sharing Agreements Involving Personal Information

Guidance Document: Taking Privacy into Account Before Making Contracting Decisions

Privacy Matters: The Federal Strategy to Address Concerns About the USA PATRIOT Act and Transborder Data Flows

Policy on Privacy Protection

Directive on Privacy Impact Assessment

Privacy Act Findings

RCMP and private polling firm safeguarded data on gun licensees

Outside psychologist’s notes still “under control of” RCMP

Departments accountable for information collected under contract

Other Resources

The Private Sector, National Security and Personal Data: An Exploratory Assessment of Private Sector Involvement in Airport and Border Security in Canada

Privacy Commissioner expresses support for government's new strategy to deal with trans-border flows of personal information

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