Today marks the second half of our two-part blog series on information access, one way we’re marking our province’s Right to Know Week. Today I’m going to dig a bit deeper into the topic of information access by exploring what a “right to know” actually means for you, and how you can exercise your rights.
“Right to know” – what does it mean?
The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC), an entity that’s independent from government, monitors and enforces British Columbia’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) – two Acts that outline your rights when it comes to information access. Under these Acts, you have the right to:
- Request access to records held by more than 2,900 public agencies (including provincial government ministries, Crown corporations, local governments, school boards, colleges, universities, municipal police forces, hospitals, health authorities and self-governing professions).
- Request access to your own information held by any public or private body.
In the public sector, we’re seeing an open information/open data movement that’s often referred to as “Gov 2.0.” The goal behind Gov 2.0 is to provide more effective and immediate ways for government to provide citizens with relevant information, including through such mediums as social media, blogs and RSS feed. Last year, the BC government launched two portals that you might find useful:
- Open Information, a portal where you can access government documents (posted through routine disclosure or as a result of past FOI requests); and
- DataBC, a portal where you can find all sorts of data, such as student performance data from the Ministry of Education and birth and death statistics from the Ministry of Health.
The OIPC has a special section on their website with helpful information, including forms you can use when requesting public records or access to your personal information. If you have a specific question about information access in BC, I’d encourage you to follow them on Twitter: @BCInfoPrivacy.