TORONTO, May 13 /CNW/ - Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner,
Dr. Ann Cavoukian, is urging the provincial government to make specific
legislative changes and take additional steps to protect privacy and ensure
In her 2008 Annual Report, released today, the Commissioner cites how her
sweeping recommendations from her seminal investigation into a privacy
complaint against the video surveillance program of Toronto's mass transit
system have been hailed in the United States as a model that cities around the
world can build upon, and in Canada as "a road map for the most
privacy-protective approach to CCTV."
Among the recommendations she is making in her 2008 Annual Report, are:
- Amend the law to make it clear that all Ontario universities fall
The Commissioner is calling on the government to fix a potential omission
in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act related to which
organizations are covered under the Act.
Under amendments that came into force in mid-2006, publicly funded
universities were brought under the Act. Due to the wording of an amended
regulation, the University of Toronto, in response to a freedom of information
request received under the Act, argued that Victoria University, an affiliated
university, was not covered under the Act.
"An IPC adjudicator determined that, based on the financial and academic
relationship between the two, Victoria was part of the University of Toronto
for the purposes of FIPPA," said Commissioner Cavoukian. "The University of
Toronto has not accepted our ruling and is now appealing it - having it
'judicially reviewed.' They have chosen to fight openness and transparency,
expending valuable public resources in the process. We find this completely
unacceptable, which is why we are prepared to go to battle on this issue, in
our effort to defend public sector accountability. We should add that this is
contrary to our normal process of working co-operatively with organizations to
mediate appeals and resolve complaints informally. In this case, however, the
university, having thrown down the gauntlet, left us no choice but to respond
in kind and aggressively defend our Order in the courts."
There are more than 20 other affiliated universities in Ontario that may
have a different relationship with the university they are affiliated with,
says Commissioner Cavoukian. "I am calling on the government to ensure that
all affiliated universities are covered by the Act. There is no rationale for
these publicly funded institutions to fall outside of the law."
- The government needs to set specific fees for requests for patients'
health records under PHIPA
The IPC has received a number of inquiries and formal complaints from the
public regarding the fees charged by some health information custodians when
patients ask for copies of their own medical records.
Ontario's Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) provides
that when an individual seeks copies of his or her own personal health
information, the fee charged by a health information custodian shall not
exceed the amount set out in the regulation under the Act or the amount of
reasonable cost recovery, if no amount is provided in the regulation. No such
regulation has been passed.
Commissioner Cavoukian, in her August 2008 submission to the Standing
Committee on Social Policy, which conducted a statutorily mandated review of
PHIPA, again raised the need for a fee regulation. Two months later, in its
report to the Speaker of the Assembly, the Standing Committee indicated its
agreement with the Commissioner's recommendation, stating that the
determination of what constitutes "reasonable cost recovery" should not be
left to the discretion of individual health information custodians and their
"The Minister of Health," said the Commissioner, "should make the
creation of a fee regulation a priority."
- Ontario's enhanced driver's licence (EDL) needs a higher level of
The Commissioner is calling on the Minister of Transportation to provide
better privacy protection for the EDL. "The radio frequency identity (RFID)
tag that will be embedded into the card can be read not only by authorized
readers, but just as easily by unauthorized readers," said Commissioner
Cavoukian. "Over time, these tags could be used to track or covertly survey
one's activities and movements."
The electronically opaque protective sleeve that will come with these
enhanced licences - which drivers without a passport will need as of June 1 to
drive across the U.S. border - "only provides protection when the driver's
licence is actually encased in the sleeve," said Commissioner Cavoukian. "But
individuals who voluntarily sign up for these enhanced driver's licences will
not only be required to produce them at the border, but will still have to do
so in other circumstances where a driver's licence or ID card is presently
required, including in many commercial contexts. The reality is that most
drivers will abandon the use of the protective sleeve."
"An on-off device on the RFID tag would provide greatly enhanced
protection," said the Commissioner. "The default position would be off since
drivers don't need the RFID to be 'on' when routinely taking their licence in
and out of their wallets, unless they are actually crossing the border. I am
urging the government to pursue adding a privacy-enhancing on-off device for
RFID tags embedded in the EDLs."
The number of freedom of information requests filed across Ontario in
2008 was the second highest ever - 37, 933, trailing only the 38,584 filed in
2007. Nearly two-thirds of the 2008 requests were filed under the Municipal
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (24,482), to such
organizations as police service boards, municipalities, school boards and
health boards. In fact, there were more requests filed to police service
boards (13,598) than there were for all organizations under the provincial Act
FOI requests may be filed for either personal information or general
records (which encompasses all information held by government organizations
except personal information). And, the majority of requests each year have
been for general records. In 2008 - for the second year in a row - the average
cost of obtaining general records under the provincial Act dropped - this
time, to $42.74 from $50.54, continuing a reversal of what had been a lengthy
trend. The average cost of general records under the municipal Act was $23.54,
up only a nickel from the previous year.
Among other key statistics released by the Commissioner:
- Since the IPC began emphasizing in 1999 the importance of quickly
responding to FOI requests, in compliance with the response
requirements set out in the Acts, the provincial 30-day compliance
rate has more than doubled, climbing to 85 per cent from 42 per cent.
After achieving a record 30-day compliance rate in 2007 of 84.4 per
cent, provincial ministries, agencies and other provincial
institutions promptly broke the record in 2008, producing an overall
30-day compliance rate of 85 per cent.
- The Commissioner also reported that her office received
507 complaints in 2008 under Ontario's three privacy Acts, and
919 appeals from requesters who were not satisfied with the response
they received after filing an FOI request with a provincial or local
government organization. Overall, the IPC resolved 966 appeals and
534 complaints in 2008.
The Information and Privacy Commissioner is appointed by and reports to
the Ontario Legislative Assembly, and is independent of the government of the
day. The Commissioner's mandate includes overseeing the access and privacy
provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the
Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, as well as the
Personal Health Information Protection Act, which applies to both public and
private sector health information custodians, in addition to educating the
public about access and privacy issues.
For further information:
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