News release – March 31, 2010

Community organizations sound the alarm on BC government’s $180 million program to collect and share their clients’ personal information

Vancouver – Charities, non-profit groups and privacy advocates have joined forces to issue a critical report on the $180 million Integrated Case Management (ICM) project the BC government announced in February’s Throne Speech.

The planned ICM system will collect comprehensive personal data from hundreds of independent community service organizations which are contracted to provide government services, in order to create a database of unprecedented scope and detail about citizen’s lives, including their participation in health care, education, family services and other government services. The information will be shared across government.

The report, entitled Culture of Care…or Culture of Surveillance? took two years to complete and includes written and onsite surveys of service organizations. It highlights serious concerns about the ICM system related to privacy rights and the potential effect of the program on social services and the independent community service organizations themselves. It makes a number of recommendations to the government, community organizations and their clients.

“If this project goes forward as planned, it will turn service groups into surveillance organs for the government,” said FIPA Executive Director Darrell Evans. “This system is designed to share personal information across government, not to protect personal privacy. It has the potential to make these organizations into agents of the state.”

“We are concerned not only about what the ICM project will do to our clients, but also what it will do to community organizations,” said Tim Beachy, Chief Executive Officer of the United Community Service Co-op. “Not only will privacy rights take a hit; Client relationships will also suffer and the caring culture of our groups will be negatively affected.”

The report raises serious questions about the workability of the ICM project, given the different types of information being collected, the wide variety of information management systems in community service organizations, the lack of resources to comply, and even the legality of such a massive data collection by government in the absence of client consent.

“We think it’s important for all British Columbians to get these questions answered before we spend hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Tim Agg, Executive Director of PLEA Community Services. “Our clients are best served by a system that protects their right to privacy.”

The full report can be downloaded here.

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