Canada: Privacy @ Gowlings – April 2006

Last Updated: May 12 2006

Edited by E. Michael Power


  • Alberta: HIA & Statements of Disagreement
  • Alberta: HIA & Withholding Information
  • B.C.: Report on Sale of Tapes of Personal Information Released
  • Canada: "Do-Not-Fly" List Still On Ground Itself
  • NY AG Alleges Firm Sold Personal Information From Millions of Customers
  • Ontario: Ruling May Force Police to List Grow Houses
  • Oregon: Gasoline Tax Alternatives Raise Privacy/Tracking Concerns
  • Privacy Commissioner's Office renews its privacy research program
  • Retention: Demand Continues To Grow For E-mail Archiving
  • Surveillance: First London, Now NYC
  • U.S.: Security Tips for Small Business

Alberta: HIA & Statements of Disagreement

Information and Privacy Commissioner Frank Work has issued his first decision about statements of disagreement under the Health Information Act (HIA).

HIA allows a person to ask a custodian, such as a physician, to correct or amend the person's health information. If the custodian refuses, the person can ask to have a statement of disagreement attached to the record that the person asked to be corrected or amended.

The statement of disagreement must comply with the requirements set out in HIA. The patient's statement of disagreement in this case did not comply with those requirements. Therefore, the Commissioner decided that the physician was not required to attach the patient's statement of disagreement to the record.

Full press release is available at:

Full report is available at:

Alberta: HIA & Withholding Information

Information and Privacy Commissioner Frank Work has upheld a decision to refuse to provide an individual with the names, initials, signatures, position titles, professional designations and credentials of other individuals under the Health Information Act (HIA).

The HIA allows a custodian to refuse to provide an individual with access to that individual's own health information where the disclosure could reasonably be expected to threaten the mental or physical health or safety of other individuals.

The information withheld from the patient's mental health records fell within this exception to access. Therefore, the Commissioner upheld the decision to withhold the information.

Full press release is available at:

Full text of report is available at:

B.C.: Report on Sale of Tapes of Personal Information Released

Government mechanisms for the secure destruction of media containing personal information are inadequate and were in any event not followed, Information and Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis found in an investigation report released on March 31.

The investigation was conducted following reports in early March by The Vancouver Sun that 41 computer backup tapes had been sold by the provincial government. The tapes contained highly sensitive personal information on thousands of people, including information about medical conditions, mental illness, substance abuse, social insurance numbers, dates of birth and financial information. The Commissioner found that the tapes were mistakenly sent for sale during a reorganization of the Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance when a Vancouver regional office was closing down in 2005.

The Commissioner recommended the creation of central provincial government policy and responsibility for secure destruction of personal information. He also recommended that the provincial government adopt a strategy for encryption of sensitive personal information.

Full press release is available at:

Full report is available at:

Canada: "Do-Not-Fly" List Still on Ground Itself

Before drafting a "no-fly-list" of banned airline passengers, the government must think carefully about how and why people land on the roster, a federal study warns.

The internal report, prepared for the Transport Department based on focus group research, says Canadians are divided - though leaning toward supportive - about a list to bar suspected terrorists and other potentially dangerous people from flying. The study, however, says people "had difficulty conceptualizing how such a list would work and how it would be developed."

Full press report is available at:

NY AG Alleges Firm Sold Personal Information From Millions of Customers

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer on March 23 sued a Washington, D.C., company for allegedly selling the personal information of millions of consumers. Prosecutors called it the largest deliberate breach of privacy in Internet history.

Gratis Internet Inc. and its owners Peter Martin and Robert Jewell were named in the suit filed in New York State Supreme Court. The defendants are accused of selling lists of millions of Gratis customers to three independent email marketers, despite explicit promises that no personal information would be given to anyone. The suit seeks a court injunction preventing the company from further sales, and seeks penalties under New York's consumer fraud statutes.

The suit stems from an investigation Spitzer launched last year of companies involved in the compilation and sale of marketing lists. Gratis collected customer information on several of its websites in exchange for free products, generally received through free trials of other products. The Gratis sites included,, and

Full press report is available at:

Ontario: Ruling May Force Police to List Grow Houses

Every police force in Ontario may soon be required to release the addresses of current and former marijuana grow operations. This follows a February 17 ruling by Ontario's Assistant Information and Privacy Commissioner, Brian Beamish. The ruling followed a request by an unnamed member of the media to the York Regional Police Services Board for records identifying the locations of houses used for marijuana grow operations or illegal chemical labs over the last four years.

In response to the initial request, police denied access to the records under exemptions in the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The exemptions cited by police allow them to deny access to records if the information would interfere with a law enforcement matter and would invade the personal privacy of the individuals involved.

Deciding whether or not disclosure would interfere with the privacy rights of the homeowner was a more difficult task. Ultimately, the commissioner weighed the circumstances favouring disclosure against those favouring protecting individual privacy and found the balance tipped in favour of disclosure.

His finding on this issue "rests primarily on the desirability of promoting both public health and safety and public scrutiny of the police activities in relation to illegal grow operations."

Full press report is available at:

Full report is available at:

Oregon: Gasoline Tax Alternatives Raise Privacy/Tracking Concerns

Oregon is exploring alternatives to its gasoline tax. A wireless black box, mounted on the dashboard, tracks the miles in a test of a per-mile fee system that state officials said might one day replace the state's 24-cents-per-gallon gas tax. A global positioning system would help track miles driven in-state.

The Oregon experiment is among several efforts across the country designed to increase state revenue for road maintenance and construction without raising gasoline taxes. Oregon's examination of a "vehicle miles traveled tax" comes at time when many states are facing depleted transportation budgets, chiefly because of inflation.

The Oregon program is being watched closely across the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but it has also touched off some privacy concerns because the same system could be used to track a driver's location.

Critics say the G.P.S. records collected by the service stations could be subpoenaed for any number of reasons: criminal cases involving terror suspects or civil cases like divorces, where, for example, a suspicious husband or wife may seek gas pump receipts to prove the whereabouts of a spouse. Proponents of the Oregon experiment acknowledge that the privacy issue must be addressed, but the State Legislature would ultimately address such policy questions if the gas tax were to be replaced by the G.P.S. fee system.

By registering as a free member, you can access the full press report at:

Privacy Commissioner's Office Renews Its Privacy Research Program

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Jennifer Stoddart, on March 22 announced the renewal of funding through her Office's Contributions Program which, for the last three years, has allowed some of Canada's brightest privacy experts to develop a wealth of information on various privacy challenges of the 21st century.

Organizations that are eligible for funding under the Program include not-for-profit organizations, such as educational institutions and industry and trade associations, as well as consumer, voluntary and advocacy organizations.

The maximum amount that can be awarded for any single research project is $50,000. Organizations are eligible to receive funding for only one project. Projects must be completed within the fiscal year in which the funding was provided. The deadline to submit applications is May 5, 2006.

Full press release is available at:

Retention: Demand Continues to Grow for E-mail Archiving

The worldwide e-mail archiving market this year is expected to reach $796 million by the end of 2006, and grow almost tenfold to $7.8 billion by 2010, according to recent estimates by messaging market research firm The Radicati Group Inc.

The key drivers for the growth include regulatory compliance, storage management and internal policy management, according to Radicati. Internal policy management is typically implemented to ensure that sensitive data is not sent to unauthorized users. And along with compliance with regulations that require access to past e-mails for auditing purposes, e-discovery for litigation case management is also a key driver for e-mail archiving.

The analyst firm said the typical corporate e-mail account receives about 16 Mbytes of data per day and by 2010, that amount will grow to more than 21 Mbytes per user per day

Other growing trends, according to Radicati, include archiving products that monitor other communications including instant messaging, scanned documents, faxes, ERP output and portal content.

Full press report is available at:

Surveillance: First London, Now NYC

Police want to surround the Big Apple with a "ring of steel," while the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) claims that the plan infringes on civil liberties.

The New York City Police Department plans to install more than 500 surveillance cameras, expected to cost nearly $10 million. City officials said during a news conference last week that they are trying to recoup some of the costs through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At the same time, the NYCLU is trying to fight the use of video surveillance as a law enforcement tool.

City leaders have said more digital surveillance cameras would help protect New York City from terrorist attacks, but civil liberties advocates believe they will photograph license plates of all cars entering certain areas and send the information to databases. A spokesperson for the NYPD was unavailable for comment Monday.

Full press report is available at:

U.S.: Security Tips for Small Business

The United States' 23 million small businesses are vulnerable to data security breaches, but free online tutorials are now available to help them.

A 2005 survey by the Small Business Technology Institute found that more than half of all small businesses had a security breach in the past year, and that two-thirds did not have an information security plan. On March 27, the Council of Better Business Bureaus Inc. yesterday announced a national education initiative to help small-business owners improve their data security and privacy readiness.

"Security & Privacy -- Made Simpler" includes free security and privacy tool kits with brochures focused on customer and employee data protection. The customer data kit was released yesterday, and the employee version will be released in the fall, said Steve Cole, president and chief executive officer of the Council of Better Business Bureaus in Arlington.

Full press report is available at:

Toolkits are available at:

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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