On December 13, 2012, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of
Canada released Report of Findings #2012-004 (August 22, 2012)
relating to the unauthorized disclosure to an imposter of a cell
phone customer's account information. In addition, the Report
of Findings addresses the scope of an individual's access
rights under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic
Documents Act (PIPEDA). It is this aspect of the decision that is
the subject of this post.
PIPEDA Access Rights
Principle 4.9 of Schedule 1 to PIPEDA provides that "an
individual shall be informed of the existence, use, and disclosure
of his or her personal information and shall be given access to
that information". Subsection 8(1) of PIPEDA requires that a
request for access be made in writing. Pursuant to subsection 8(3)
of PIPEDA, an organization must respond to the request within 30
days subject to certain exceptions. Notwithstanding an
individual's access right under Principle 4.9, an organization
is prohibited under section 9(1) of PIPEDA from providing an
individual access if it would reveal information about a third
party. If the information about the third party can be severed, the
organization should follow that procedure in providing access.
No Obligation to Provide Access in a Particular
In Report of Findings #2012-004, the complainant sought a copy
of the recording between the imposter and the customer service
representative. The organization offered to permit the complainant
an opportunity to listen to the recording at the company's
premises. The organization also provided a transcript of the call
and deleted the customer service representative's name. The
complainant did not take up the offer to listen to the recording
and complained to the OPC regarding the completeness of the
The OPC concluded as follows:
 Regarding the redactions that the company had made from
the call transcript that it provided the complainant, we have
reviewed those redactions and find them to be in compliance with
subsection 9(1) of the Act, which requires an organization to sever
personal information about a third party before allowing an
individual access to their own personal information. The
information redacted from the transcript (i.e., the CSR's name)
belongs to a third party.
 As for the issue raised by the complainant that he was
not provided with an audio recording of the conversation which took
place between the imposter and the CSR, the Act provides
individuals with the right to access their personal information.
The Act does not, however, require an organization to provide
access in a particular medium. Only under section 10 of the Act
must an organization give access to personal information in an
"alternative format" to an individual with a sensory
disability and who requests that their personal information be
transmitted in the alternative format. The complainant's case
does not fall within these circumstances. Rather, the company did
provide the complainant with the call transcript containing the
personal information, and to which he was entitled under the Act.
It is, therefore, not required to further provide him with a copy
of the recording.
It should be noted that the OPC did not state that a transcript
would always suffice. The organization provided the complainant
with the opportunity to listen to the recording. A recording of a
voice contains more information about the person than what would
appear on a transcript. The OPC might conclude that an individual
may have a right to listen to the audio recording. Factors that the
OPC might consider to be relevant may include whether there is
third party information in the recording that cannot be severed
without significant and disproportionate cost.
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