Canadian Health Measures Survey, Cycle 5, 2016-2017

Privacy impact assessment

Introduction

Statistics Canada began conducting the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) in 2007 and will begin a fifth cycle of data collection in 2016-2017.

Participation in all components of the survey is voluntary for the selected participants. For this cycle of the survey, it is anticipated that approximately 5,700 respondents will complete the entire survey, with one or two people between the ages of 3 and 79 selected per household.

All processes of the CHMS have been reviewed and annually approved by the Health Canada/Public Health Agency of Canada Research Ethics Board (REB# 2005-0025) to ensure that internationally recognized ethical standards for human research are met and maintained.

Objective

The Statistics Canada Generic Privacy Impact Assessment addresses many of the privacy aspects related to the survey.

Due to the intrusive nature and unique collection methodology of the CHMS, a specific Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) was conducted prior to the launch of the survey in 2007, to serve as a supplement to the Generic PIA. Amendments were developed for each cycle; these updates are designed to identify new privacy, confidentiality and security risks to participants' personal information, to make recommendations to resolve or mitigate these risks, and to report on ongoing or previously identified concerns.

This specific privacy impact assessment was developed to evaluate the current state of the CHMS and its new developments, including changes in content and procedures. This PIA will now serve as the exhaustive assessment of the CHMS.

Description

The Canadian Health Measures Survey aims to collect valuable health information through self-reported data and direct physical measures. The CHMS is conducted in two phases: a questionnaire is administered in the household (home interview) and physical measure tests are administered in a mobile examination centre (MEC).

This important information will help evaluate the extent of health problems associated with major health concerns such as chronic diseases, infectious diseases, lifestyle characteristics, and environmental exposures. The survey will also provide a platform to explore emerging public health issues and new measurement technologies.

The CHMS also maintains a Biobank where specimen samples are stored for future use.  Only Statistics Canada employees and approved researchers, who have taken the Oath of Secrecy under the Statistics Act, can access the Biobank.

Consultations and Review Boards

The content and physical measures for the CHMS are determined by extensive continuous consultations with experts to ensure that the survey responds to the highest information requirements of governments, researchers, and the general public. A number of committees are involved in the growth and continuity of the CHMS, including the CHMS Expert Advisory Committee with input from Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and other stakeholder groups; the Biobank Advisory Committee of experts in health, ethics, and scientific research and Statistics Canada's Population Health Survey Advisory Committee (PHSAC).

Risk Area Identification and Categorization

The PIA also identifies the risk areas and categorizes the level of potential risk (level 1 representing the lowest level of potential risk and level 4, the highest) associated with the collection and use of personal information of respondents.

  • Type of program or activity – Level 1: Program or activity that does not involve a decision about an identifiable individual.
  • Type of personal information involved and context – Level 4: Sensitive personal information, including detailed profiles, allegations or suspicions and bodily samples, or the context surrounding the personal information is particularly sensitive.
  • Program or activity partners and private sector involvement – Level 4: Private sector organizations, international organizations or foreign governments.
  • Duration of the program or activity – Level 3: Long-term program or activity.
  • Program population – Not applicable: The program's use of personal information is not for administrative purposes. Information is collected for statistical and related research purposes, under the authority of the Statistics Act.
  • Personal information transmission – Level 4: The personal information is mainly transmitted using wireless technologies. When outside Statistics Canada's closed system (e.g., portable storage devices), information is encrypted to Communications Security Establishment (CSE) standards. Paper and specimen transmission is conducted under additional safeguards.
  • Technology and privacy: New applications and software are installed on computers used to measure certain physical measures. These applications and software do not require modifications to Statistics Canada's information technology (IT) legacy systems.
  • Privacy breach: There is a very low risk of a breach of personal information being disclosed without proper authorization.

Conclusion

While a number of potential privacy concerns have been identified and the generic privacy impact assessment addressed some concerns, this assessment concludes that, with the existing Statistics Canada safeguards and additional safeguards that have been put in place, any remaining risks are either negligible, or are such that Statistics Canada is prepared to accept and manage the risk.

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