B.C. opens private bank and credit data to U.S. scrutiny
New privatization deal means U.S. authorities will have access to
bank account and credit card numbers, property records, income and
driver's licence information on B.C. residents
Vancouver - The B.C. Columbia Government and Services Employees' Union
(BCGEU/NUPGE) plans to launch a new campaign this week warning
residents that the Liberal government of B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell
is making highly personal data vulnerable to American scrutiny through outsourcing and privatization.
The latest information to be placed in the hands of private American
companies involves a wide range of information on most B.C.
residents, including bank account and credit card numbers, property
records, income and driver's licence information.
The province announced a $572-million ($483-million US) deal Friday
with Electronic Data Systems (EDS) of Plano, Texas, to take over much
of its bill collection activity. The 10-year deal comes with barely
six months remaining in the Liberals' current mandate.
The province argues that privacy provisions contained in the contract
will safeguard personal information but the union says the government
is misleading citizens because it is already known that the contract
will not withstand the overriding and intrusive powers available to
American authorities under the U.S. Patriot Act.
The Patriot Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by
President George Bush following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks
on New York and Washington.
The deal is even worse than a recent 10-year, $324-million contract
signed with U.S.-based Maximus Inc. to privatize the processing of the
medical claims of B.C. residents.
Privacy commissioner ignored
Once again, the province has ignored concerns raised by its own
information and privacy commissioner, putting private sector ideological
interests ahead of those of its own people, the BCGEU says.
Essentially, the latest contract means that intensely personal
information on most British Columbians will be exposed to potential
scrutiny by the FBI and other U.S. government agencies, the union
"Itís another example of the Liberals bullying ahead without heeding
the warnings of privacy commissioner David Loukidelis issues raised by
the privatizing of records management, says BCGEU president George
Loukidelis said the U.S. Patriot Act creates a real risk that
personal information, once placed in the hands of private companies
with U.S. links, will be open to scrutiny by the FBI and other
American agencies. He recommended a series of measures to protect the
privacy of British Columbians.
Heyman says Premier Campbell has failed to take the necessary
range of measures recommended by the commissioner.
Patriot Act applies
"The fact is that the Patriot Act applies. EDS is an American company,
and all the records in its possession are exposed," Heyman says.
"The Campbell government is clearly misleading the public and
betraying the promise they made to British Columbians that real
protections would be in place before any contracts were signed."
A long list of personal data at risk, Heyman warns..
"It includes everything from credit card and bank account numbers,
personal property and asset details, individual and family income, and
drivers license, vehicle and insurance information. Itís pretty
serious stuff that British Columbians wouldnít want to share with the
Bush government," he says.
Meanwhile, the BCGEU leader said full details on his union's latest
campaign to warn residents will be announced this week. The union is
also continuing efforts to mount a legal challenge to the government.
The union says privacy guarantees written into the contract by EDS and
the province will be overridden by the all-intrusive federal powers of
the U.S. Privacy Act.
Web posted by NUPGE:
30 November 2004