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January 15 2014

B.C. Criminal Record Checks Spur Privacy Concerns

Concerns about the amount and type of personal information disclosed in police record checks have prompted an investigation by B.C.'s privacy commissioner. Elizabeth Denham says citizens and civil society groups have raised questions about the scope and sensitivity of personal information that's accessed and disclosed to police, often for employment-screening purposes. Denham says thousands of record checks are processed every year by municipal police forces and the RCMP but the relevance of the information collected in the public and private sector needs to be scrutinized. While a criminal record check is a report of someone's prior convictions, penalties or outstanding charges pulled from a national police database, such information can also reveal details that have not been proven in court. She says some of the issues include a person's mental health, investigations that did not result in charges and charges that did not end up in a conviction. Last year, the commissioner issued a report saying the B.C. government did too many criminal record checks for employment-related purposes in March 2011 and that while some were valuable for people working with children, for example, others were an invasion of privacy.