By Geordon Omand


VANCOUVER _ British Columbia’s public auto insurer is “for the most part” fulfilling its duty to protect drivers’ personal information, but there is still room for improvement, the province’s privacy commissioner says.

B.C.’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner announced in February its intention to look into the information-sharing agreements used by the Insurance Corporation of B.C. to make sure it was complying with privacy legislation.

In a report released Wednesday, acting commissioner Drew McArthur said he was pleased with the findings, which concluded that disclosures by ICBC to approved third parties were generally “reasonable and proportionate.”

“The ability for individuals to control their own personal information is fundamental to protecting privacy … and is a right that citizens value,” he added.

“Public bodies need to have appropriate controls in place to protect the personal information they hold.”

The report makes 12 recommendations on how the Crown corporation can improve its information-sharing regime.

They include better tracking and review of third-party access to information, removing duplicate and outdated access of accounts of people who no longer work with authorized third parties, and conducting internal audits of the corporation’s information-sharing systems, policies and governance.

Deputy commissioner Jay Fedorak described ICBC’s database as one of the most important in the province, after the Medical Services Plan database.

“It’s extremely valuable. It contains personal information of almost every adult British Columbian,” Fedorak said in an interview.

“We believe that it’s really important, when there is this kind of sensitive information, that the public can have trust and confidence in how this information is being handled.”

ICBC issued a statement thanking the privacy commissioner for the report and it committed to implement all 12 recommendations.

“We take the protection of personal information records very seriously and accept the recommendations made in the report,” said spokeswoman Joanna Linsangen.

“We believe they will make our procedures even stronger, and have already undertaken efforts to address the commissioner’s recommendations.”

ICBC has come under fire in recent months as successive reports forecast the need for drastic rate hikes to save the floundering corporation from economic collapse.

B.C.’s first NDP government created ICBC in the 1970s to offer affordable, universal and basic auto coverage to the province’s drivers, but critics say political government interference in the intervening years has pushed the Crown corporation into financial distress.

Since taking office earlier this year, Attorney General David Eby announced a rate increase for basic insurance by 6.4 per cent, or $57 a year for the average driver.

Eby, who is also the minister in charge of ICBC, pledged to audit the Crown corporation’s operations and look for ways to reduce collisions, including broadening the use of red light cameras and cracking down on distracted driving.

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