Halifax food bank's application form raises privacy concerns
Published Wednesday, March 30, 2016 8:47AM ADT
Last Updated Wednesday, March 30, 2016 11:42AM ADT
Nova Scotia’s privacy commissioner is among those questioning forms being used to screen clients at a Halifax food bank.
The Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank is asking detailed questions in a new assistance application form in an effort to identify clients in need, but some say the form is too intrusive.
“Have this whole list of things and then say they want you to provide proof, that’s a little humiliating,” says Helen Williams, who has been a volunteer and a client at the food bank.
The form is four pages long and asks for clients’ health card numbers and birthdates, as well as income information and a long list of household expenses, and applicants are expected to provide proof.
“I won’t use it because I refuse to give someone that much information about my life,” says Williams.
Kevin McKay, the operations manager at Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank, says the new process is in response to an increase in clients and concerns that some were abusing the service.
“The information that they’re concerned about is being stored carefully and securely,” he says.
However, the collection of health card information is raising a red flag for Nova Scotia’s privacy commissioner. Under privacy laws, that information can only be collected by health-care providers.
The officer of the information and privacy commissioner doesn’t have any direct oversight of charitable organizations or non-profits, but the commissioner says she would be happy to provide guidance to any organization that collects personal information.
“Basically it should be, we’re checking, you’re eligible, and dispose of all of the records that supported that finding of eligibility,” says Catherine Tully.
Tully says organizations that collect such sensitive personal information can also open themselves up to liability if that information falls into the wrong hands.
She suggests that food banks make it a policy to simply serve those who ask for help, and says she will be contacting Parker Street to discuss the new application.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Sarah Ritchie