Government takes its privacy too far, Kirby says

James McLeod
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As Public Engagement Minister Steve Kent was posting tweets about International Data Privacy Day, independent MHA Dale Kirby responded with a tweet of his own.

Independent MHA Dale Kirby applauds the government’s efforts on data security; he said that since Bill 29 was passed, data is so secure that he often just gets blacked-out pages in response to access to information requests.

He posted a picture of himself holding up two completely blacked-out sheets of paper — the results of a government access to information request.

Kirby said that since the passage of the controversial Bill 29 amendments to the access to information law, the government sets a fine example of how to keep information private.

“If everybody was as good at protecting their own information as this government is, we’d have fewer data breaches and fewer people who are losing their personal information to criminals,” Kirby said.

Kent agreed with Kirby, at least insofar that data privacy is very important.

“We want to encourage people in Newfoundland and Labrador to protect their own personal information and to be concerned about data security,” he said. “It’s more important than ever before that people are aware of what steps they can take to protect their personal information.”

As for Bill 29, though, Kent said he understands there’s controversy surrounding the legislation, but within the next year, the government will revisit it.

By law, the province has to do a review of the access to information law every five years; the last review produced recommendations that essentially created Bill 29.

Kent said if people want something different, they should come out to the next one.

“The next review is going to begin in the next year or so,” Kent said. “So there’s going to be plenty of opportunity for the public to have direct input into the shape that our (access to information) legislation takes in the future. If people have concerns, we want to hear them.”

It wasn’t just data privacy that Kent was fielding questions about Tuesday, either. The government also rolled out a social media policy for all public servants.

Essentially, the policy tells government workers that if they aren’t an authorized spokesperson for the government, they should make it very clear that any postings online are not being done in an official capacity.

Also, official government spokespersons should be careful to make their official government tweets and Facebook postings and everything else in line with communications policies and strategies.

Kent said it’s all just about common sense: if you’re using social media on your own time, that’s fine, just make it clear you’re not speaking for the government; if you’re speaking for the government, make sure you’re on message.

That didn’t sit well with NDP Leader Lorraine Michael.

“It seems to be adding to a culture of control,” she said. “Almost introducing a bit of a chill into public servants’ right to freedom of expression and opinion.”

She said that by sending this policy to every public-sector worker, it may intimidate workers into keeping quiet, which isn’t a good thing.

Liberal MHA Lisa Dempster echoed that idea.

“I have some big issues with the policy,” Dempster said. “I think this is just gone too far. I feel, in my mind, it’s like Big Brother trying to control how public servants use their social media accounts.”

Twitter: TelegramJames

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Scott
    January 29, 2014 - 09:13

    Dale come on over to our party...Because Dwight Ball need help..

  • JJT
    January 29, 2014 - 08:16

    With any luck, by the time the next review of the access to information law comes around the PC government will be a not-too-fond memory. A massive serving of humble pie is in order.

  • Marshall Art
    January 29, 2014 - 08:10

    'Minister' Steve Kent. 'Minister' Steve Kent. 'Minister' Steve Kent. Nope, no matter how many times it's repeated, it simply doesn't sound right.

  • JJT
    January 29, 2014 - 07:52

    With any luck, by the time the next review of the access to information law comes around the PC government will be a not-too-fond memory. A massive serving of humble pie is in order.

  • Jay
    January 29, 2014 - 06:37

    Dale, Speaking of withholding information . Who will you be running for in the next election? Have you been promised a cabinet position?