April 2020
Ontario Health Privacy Protections Contained in Bill 188

2020-04-03 2:40:23 PM

Last week, the government passed Bill 188, the Economic and Fiscal Outlook Act, which largely focuses on supporting Ontario’s health care system, economy, and people amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bill, however, also includes amendments to the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act and the Personal Health Information Protection Act.

Today, the Ontario government has launched an online portal that puts such privacy laws into use. The online portal will allow the public to access their COVID-19 lab test results through a computer or mobile device and will help relieve the pressure on public health units.

Below is a summary of amendments:

Schedule 2: Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

  • Allows the government to designate an entity as an “extra-ministerial data integration unit”

  • This would allow organizations outside the public sector, including non-profits and private firms (such as Sidewalk Labs) to collect personal data from Ontarians with their permission and data from the province if provided the authority.

  • Rules and penalties on this will be managed by the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s (IPC) Office.

Commissioner Brian Beamish commented to Queen’s Park Today said that as long as the government is careful about who they designate, it could be workable.

Schedule 6: Personal Health Information Protection Act

  • Section 3 of the Act is amended to create an electronic audit log that will allow health custodians to monitor access and use of personal health information. This is meant to prevent and detect unauthorized snooping.

  • Section 45 is amended to allow entities that are deemed as a “extra-ministerial data integration unit” to use personal health information for the purpose of ‘de-identification’

    • De-identification is a process that strips personal identifiers from data sets

    • A new standard is currently being drafted by the government and will guide the collection and use of information

  • Section 52 is amended to provide individuals the right to access a record of their personal health information in an electronic format.

  • Section 54.1 allows individuals to access their heath records by using digital tools (referred in the legislation as consumer electronic service providers). A digital tool can be a variety of medical apps.

  • Section 60 and 61 allows the IPC the right to:

    • Oversight of apps that collect personal health information from the individual;

    • Forbid a health custodian form sharing information with apps; and

    • Levy administrative penalties to prevent a person from “deriving, directly or indirectly, any economic benefit as a result of a contravention of the Act or its regulations”.

      • Specific administrative fines will be determined in the regulations

      • Ontario will be the first jurisdiction in Canada to enshrine this in legislation

For more information, please see below:

Bill 188, Economic and Fiscal Update Act

Ontario Newsroom: Ontario Increasing Public Health Units’ Capacity to Stop COVID-19

IPC: How government’s response to COVID-19 ushered in new privacy protections

AMCTO: Ontario Releases 2020 Fiscal Outlook


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