Landmark court ruling hailed by Commissioner Cavoukian as upholding openness and transparency of electronic records



    TORONTO, Jan. 13 /CNW/ - A ruling handed down by the Ontario Court of
Appeal today is "a landmark decision that upholds the principles of openness
and transparency as applied to electronic records," said Ontario Information
and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian.
    The Court allowed appeals by the IPC and a Toronto Star reporter from a
Divisional Court ruling and restored the IPC's decision applying the
definition of "record" in section 2 of the Municipal Freedom of Information
and Protection of Privacy Act to electronic databases maintained by the
Toronto Police Services Board. In that decision, the IPC held that the need to
develop a computer program in order to anonymize the databases would not
result in the creation of new records outside the scope of Ontario's freedom
of information legislation.
    In its ruling today, the Court directed the Toronto Police Services Board
to respond to Star's requests immediately and to pay the newspaper's legal
costs.
    The Star originally filed two freedom of information requests with the
Toronto Police, seeking information from the police databases of arrests and
occurrences, with personal identifiers removed, for its series of articles on
racial profiling. The IPC rejected the position taken by the police that the
information sought was not a "record" and ordered the police to make a
decision on access to the information.
    The police then applied for judicial review to Ontario's Divisional Court
which overturned the IPC's decision, holding that the need to develop new
software takes the request outside the statutory definition of "record."
    In its far-reaching decision handed down today, the Court of Appeal,
Ontario's highest court, agreed with the IPC's submissions that the definition
of record must be read "subject to the regulations," which contemplate that
institutions may be required to develop new computer programs to respond to
requests. Because the Toronto Police Services Board had the technical
expertise to develop an algorithm using its current software in order to
create the requested records, the request satisfied the definition of record.
    The Court left it up to the IPC to decide another day whether the
definition of "record" would require an institution "to acquire or purchase
new software that is beyond its technical expertise to develop using its
existing software."
    Here is a direct link to the Court of Appeal ruling:
    http://www.ontariocourts.on.ca/decisions/2009/january/2009ONCA0020.htm





For further information:

For further information: Media Contact: Bob Spence, IPC Communications
Co-ordinator, Direct line: (416) 326-3939, Cell phone: (416) 873-9746, Toll
free: 1-800-387-0073, bob.spence@ipc.on.ca


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