This policy statement concerns VCN’s collection, use, disclosure and retention of personal information about our members and donors, our users, and members of the general public.  A separate policy statement which is available upon request concerns personal information about our employees, volunteers, and board members, and applicants for those positions. These policies have been established pursuant to the Personal Information Protection Act of BC.

What is VCN?

The Vancouver Community Network (VCN) was incorporated as a non-profit society in 1993, and is one of Canada’s oldest surviving freenets.  VCN and other freenets provide free public access to the internet so that everyone, whatever their financial circumstances, can take advantage of the wealth of information that is available online.  In addition to dial-up modems for accessing the internet from home, VCN offers its users email accounts, personal and group web sites, email lists, and other important online communication tools.

VCN is a registered charity, thanks to a successful appeal to the Federal Court in 1996.  In his decision, the judge noted that the free exchange of information is a public good which is essential to the maintenance of democracy.  He then drew an analogy between providing public access to the information highway and maintaining public roads and bridges in Elizabethan England, where the principles of charity law were first established.  Ensuring that everyone has effective access to the information highway continues to be VCN’s core objective.

What is Personal Information? and Why Does VCN Need It?

Personal information is information about an identifiable individual, except for work contact information (your office address and phone number, for example).  Your personal information includes your name, home address and phone, and any other information stored in such a way that your identity could be determined.

VCN’s computers automatically generate certain system information – logs of dial-up connections, i.p. addresses, etc. – which is needed to maintain our network or to comply with the law.  This data is not personal information, since it isn’t linked to an identified user or member.

In order to provide public access to the internet, VCN needs to have certain personal information about our members and/or donors – the people who belong to our registered society or donate money to it – and from our users – the people who use our modems to connect to the internet, or who ask us to host their email accounts, web sites and other types of services.  (In most cases, users are also members and donors, and vice versa.)  On occasion, VCN may also receive personal information about other members of the public.

What Personal Information Does VCN Collect?

VCN’s policy is only to collect, use and disclose personal information which is reasonably necessary to provide services or to maintain our membership, donation and charitable tax records as required by law.  In most cases, we only need your basic contact information for these purposes, such as your name, address, etc.  Additional personal information may be requested if you ask us for help or if there is a complaint involving your use of VCN’s services.

For example, if you want VCN to host your web site so that you can tell the public about your hobbies and interests, we need to know who you are and how to reach you if there should be a complaint or other problem with the site.  Should you need technical assistance getting your web site to work properly, a record of our help desk’s involvement will also be created.

In carrying on our work, VCN may also receive personal information about people who are not members, donors or users.  For example, if there is a complaint about a site we host, we will keep a record of the complainant’s name and other contact information in our files, along with a copy of the complaint and how it was addressed.

Does VCN Hold Personal Information That Isn’t Covered By This Policy?

There is a great deal of personal information (often very personal) which is stored on our servers as part of the thousands of email accounts, group lists, web sites, and other forms of data which are controlled by and belong to VCN’s users.  VCN is not responsible for the collection, use, disclosure or retention of personal information by our users.  If you have question or concerns about that information, they should be directed to the owner(s) of the account, list, or site in question.

Your  Consent

We will only collect, use or disclose your personal information if we have your consent to do so.  Consent may be written, oral, electronic, or implied, depending on the circumstances.

When you join or make a charitable donation to VCN, or use VCN’s services, or ask for VCN’s assistance in resolving a problem or complaint, you are deemed to consent to the collection of the personal information that we may ask from you, as well as other information about you which we may receive in the course of providing our services.

You are also deemed to consent to such use and disclosure of your personal information as may be reasonably necessary in order to maintain VCN’s funding and legal status, provide the services you have requested, or address your request or complaint.

You can withdraw your consent to the collection, use or disclosure of your personal information at any time by telling us in writing that you wish to do so.  Without your consent, however, we may be unable to provide further services to you or allow you to continue to participate in the Society.

Disclosing, Storing and Correcting Personal Information

VCN will only disclose your personal information upon your request, when it is reasonably necessary for us to do so, or when required by law.

VCN will take reasonable steps to prevent the loss or theft of your personal information, and we will securely destroy that information when we no longer have a reasonable need for it.

VCN will take reasonable steps to ensure that your personal information which we hold is accurate and complete, and to correct any errors or omissions which you bring to our attention.  Correcting certain information may not be feasible, however, if it is held in a permanent format such as a backup copy of VCN’s servers.

Questions, Requests and Complaints

VCN will take reasonable steps to respond to your questions about the personal information that we have about you.  Pursuant to the provisions of the privacy legislation, we will

a.    advise you whether we have such personal information;
b.    advise you whether we have used or disclosed the personal information;
c.    provide you with access to your personal information; and
d.    change any inaccurate and incomplete personal information, where feasible.

Any questions, requests or complaints in relation to this Personal Information Protection Policy should be directed to VCN’s Privacy Officer, as follows: