Personal Information Protection Amendment Bill 2023

Good afternoon, all.

I’m pleased to be joined by the Privacy Commissioner, Mr. Alexander White.

The Privacy Commissioner and I are delighted to provide an update to the community regarding the steps we are taking to prepare Bermuda for the Personal Information Protection Amendment Act 2023.

We live in a data driven world and since the pandemic, we have become more and more dependent on operating in an online space.

Personal information permeates businesses, private and public sector organisations, and workplaces, including names, addresses, personal history, contact information, medical and financial data. This information may be readily available online or easily accessed in other cases.

Personal information, in most instances must be protected, because if it falls into the wrong hands it could be harmful to the individuals and to the organisation.

Depending on the situation, individuals could become victims of identity theft, discrimination, physical harm, harassment or the victim of libelous and defamatory communication. Organisations may find their reputation affected or may be legally responsible.

In this explosive digital age, this Government is committed to ensuring that all its citizens are treated fairly and appropriately protected.

In that regard, the public will note that the Personal Information Protection Amendment (PIPA) Bill 2023 was tabled in the House of Assembly on June 2, 2023.

This Bill seeks to amend the Personal Information Protection Act 2016, to make significant amendments to the Public Access to Information Act 2010 and the Public Access to Information Regulations 2014.

Essentially the Bill seeks to harmonize the PIPA and PATI legislation which moves the Government a step closer to implementation of PIPA.

Tomorrow, we will be debating this matter in the House, and I wanted to provide an opportunity to share with the public a little bit of why this legislation is so critical and why it matters to residents and businesses.

It’s important to understand that Privacy legislation -- also referred to as ‘data protection’ or ‘informational privacy’ -- provides for an important human right and forms a critical building block in the creation of a successful information society.

The aim of the PIPA is to put the control over the use of personal information into the hands of individuals.

Privacy is often confused with Public Access to Information, or Freedom of Information. They have similarities but are quite different.

PATI gives the public the right to obtain access to information held by Public Authorities to the greatest extent possible, subject to exceptions that are in the public interest or for the protection of the rights of others.

PATI’s purpose is to inform the public about the activities of Public Authorities, including the manner in which they make decisions.

The Personal Information Protection Amendment Bill will resolve overlapping provisions currently found in PATI and the PATI Regulations 2014 with the PIPA to ensure, for example, one definition of personal information and one legislative regime to request and correct one’s own personal information.

The amendments primarily allow personal information requests to public authorities to be managed through PIPA and not PATI once PIPA comes into force.

With the anticipated passage in the House of Assembly of the Personal Information Protection Amendment Bill 2023, I can advise that PIPA will formally come into force on January 1, 2025.

I recognize that PIPA can seem like a daunting prospect for our community.

And admittedly, there is much to consider when it comes to what is required, and what the public’s responsibility is as it relates to privacy and the protection of personal information.

I can assure the public that much work has gone on to prepare Bermuda for PIPA.

As an example, the Privacy Commissioner was appointed in January 2020.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner will be responsible for monitoring the implementation of PIPA and using his powers as stated in the PIPA for its management and enforcement.

As part of the Privacy Commissioner’s “Road to PIPA”, Mr. White has also been very active in issuing guidance, offering extensive training and working with industry groups to help them understand their requirements and to ensure their adoption of PIPA.

The Privacy Commissioner will continue working across the community with businesses to help ensure the smooth transition.

In particular, we want to stress that we are sensitive to our small businesses, entrepreneurs and medium-sized businesses as we prepare for PIPA and I can assure them that special assistance and guidance will be provided to make sure they are ready. In fact, the Privacy Commissioner will provide user-friendly resources that allow them to manage privacy themselves.

Finally, I should point out that PIPA is designed to meet international best practice, and many of Bermuda’s competitors already comply with data protection and privacy provisions including small jurisdictions such as Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Jersey, Cayman and others.

Furthermore, the European Union requires companies that conduct financial services in the EU to have this legislation. In the United States, recent laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act are also in line with this legislation.

And with the implementation of this legislation, Bermuda will join other international destinations in becoming a country that falls within the ‘network of trust’.

Tomorrow, I will lead the parliamentary debate in the House of Assembly on this critical piece of legislation. I encourage the public to tune in so they can learn more about the steps that this Government is taking to ensure that their rights are protected.

I’d now like to invite the Privacy Commissioner to share with you the steps his office will take over the next 18-months to support the business community in preparation for PIPA.

Thank you.