Overview and Definitions
While we have always respected our clients’ and employees’ privacy and safeguarded their personal information, we have strengthened our commitment to protecting personal information as a result of British Columbia’s Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA). PIPA came into effect on January 1, 2004. It sets out the ground rules for how B.C. businesses and not-for-profit organizations may collect, use and disclose personal information.
We will inform our clients and employees of why and how we collect, use and disclose their personal information, obtain their consent where required, and only handle their personal information in a manner that a reasonable person would consider appropriate in the circumstances.
This Personal Information Protection Policy, in compliance with PIPA, outlines the principles and practices we will follow in protecting client and employee personal information. Our privacy commitment includes ensuring the accuracy, confidentiality, and security of our clients and employees personal information and allowing our clients and employees to request access to, and correction of, their personal information.
Personal Information – means information about an identifiable individual. For example: name, age, home address and phone number, social insurance number, marital status, income, credit history, medical information, education, employment information. Personal information does not include contact information (described below).
Contact information – means information that would enable an individual to be contacted at a place of business and includes name, position name or title, business telephone number, business address, business email or business fax number. Contact information is not covered by this policy or PIPA.
Privacy Officer – means the individual designated responsibility for ensuring that Houle complies with this policy and PIPA.
1. Collecting Personal Information
1.1 Unless the purposes for collecting personal information are obvious and the client or employee voluntarily provides his or her personal information for those purposes, we will communicate the purposes for which personal information is being collected, either orally or in writing, before or at the time of collection.
1.2 We will only collect client and employee information that is necessary to fulfill the following, or other reasonable, purposes:
- To verify identity;
- To identify client preferences;
- To open and manage an account;
- To deliver requested products and services;
- To guarantee a travel or hotel reservation;
- To provide medical, dental or other benefit services;
- To meet regulatory requirements;
- To ensure a high standard of service to our clients and employees.
2.1 We will obtain client and employee consent to collect, use or disclose personal information (except where, as noted below, we are authorized to do so without consent).
2.2 Consent can be provided orally, in writing, electronically, through an authorized representative or it can be implied where the purpose for collecting, using or disclosing the personal information would be considered obvious and the client and employee voluntarily provides personal information for that purpose.
2.3 Consent may also be implied where a client and employee is given notice and a reasonable opportunity to opt-out of his or her personal information being used for mail-outs, the marketing of new services or products, fundraising and the client and employee does not opt-out.
2.4 Subject to certain exceptions (e.g., the personal information is necessary to provide the service or product, or the withdrawal of consent would frustrate the performance of a legal obligation), clients and employees can withhold or withdraw their consent for Houle to use their personal information in certain ways. A client or employee’s decision to withhold or withdraw their consent to certain uses of personal information may restrict our ability to provide a particular service or product. If so, we will explain the situation to assist the client or employee in making the decision.
2.5 We may collect, use or disclose personal information without the client or employee’s knowledge or consent in the following limited circumstances:
- When the collection, use or disclosure of personal information is permitted or required by law;
- In an emergency that threatens an individual’s life, health, or personal security;
- When the personal information is available from a public source (e.g., a telephone directory);
- When we require legal advice from a lawyer;
- For the purposes of collecting a debt;
- To protect ourselves from fraud;
- To investigate an anticipated breach of an agreement or a contravention of law.
3. Using and Disclosing Personal Information
3.1 We will only use or disclose client or employee personal information where necessary to fulfill the purposes identified at the time of collection or for a purpose reasonably related to those purposes. For example, to conduct client surveys in order to enhance the provision of our services, or to contact our clients directly about products and services that may be of interest.
3.2 We will not use or disclose client or employee personal information for any additional purpose unless we obtain consent to do so.
3.3 We will not sell client or employee lists or personal information to other parties unless we have consent to do so.
4. Retaining Personal Information
4.1 If we use client or employee personal information to make a decision that directly affects the client or employee we will retain that personal information for at least one year so that the client or employee has a reasonable opportunity to request access to it.
4.2 Subject to policy 4.1, we will retain client and employee personal information only as long as necessary to fulfill the identified purposes or a legal or business purpose.
5. Ensuring Accuracy of Personal Information
5.1 We will make reasonable efforts to ensure that client and employee personal information is accurate and complete where it may be used to make a decision about the client or employee or disclosed to another organization.
5.2 Clients and employees may request correction to their personal information in order to ensure its accuracy and completeness. A request to correct personal information must be made in writing and provide sufficient detail to identify the personal information and the correction being sought.
5.3 If the personal information is demonstrated to be inaccurate or incomplete, we will correct the information as required and send the corrected information to any organization to which we disclosed the personal information in the previous year. If the correction is not made, we will note the client or employee’s correction request in the file.
6. Securing Personal Information
6.1 We are committed to ensuring the security of client and employee personal information in order to protect it from unauthorized access, collection, use, disclosure, copying, modification or disposal or similar risks.
6.2 The following security measures will be followed to ensure that client and employee personal information is appropriately protected such as: the use of locked filing cabinets; physically securing offices where personal information is held; the use of user IDs, passwords, encryption, firewalls; restricting employee access to personal information as appropriate (i.e., only those that need to know will have access); contractually requiring any service providers to provide comparable security measures.
6.3 We will use appropriate security measures when destroying client or employee personal information such as shredding documents, deleting electronically stored information.
6.4 We will continually review and update our security policies and controls as technology changes to ensure ongoing personal information security.
7. Providing Clients and Employees Access to Personal Information
7.1 Clients and employees have a right to access their personal information, subject to limited exceptions as outlined within section 23 of PIPA; for example when disclosure would reveal personal information about another individual.
7.2 A request to access personal information must be made in writing and provide sufficient detail to identify the personal information being sought. A request to access personal information should be forwarded to the Privacy Officer for Houle (see section 8 below).
7.3 Upon request, we will also tell clients and employees how we use their personal information and to whom it has been disclosed if applicable.
7.4 We will make the requested information available within 30 business days, or provide written notice of an extension where additional time is required to fulfill the request.
7.5 A minimal fee may be charged for providing access to personal information. Where a fee may apply, we will inform the client or employee of the cost and request further direction from the client or employee on whether or not we should proceed with the request.
7.6 If a request is refused in full or in part, we will notify the client or employee in writing, providing the reasons for refusal and the recourse available to the client or employee.
8. Questions and Complaints: The Role of the Privacy Officer
8.1 The Privacy Officer is responsible for ensuring Houle’s compliance with this policy and the Personal Information Protection Act.
8.2 Clients and employees should direct any complaints, concerns or questions regarding Houle’s compliance in writing to the Privacy Officer. If the Privacy Officer is unable to resolve the concern, the client or employee may also write to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia.
Contact information for Houle’s Privacy Officer: