In Alberta, all public bodies must comply with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) Act, which aims to balance the public’s right to know about information held by those bodies and the individual’s right to privacy.
When we talk about information held by public bodies that are governed by FOIP, we recognize two categories:
- General Information
- Personal Information
General information is not explicitly defined in the Act but is understood as all records in custody or under the control of the public body other than those that are specifically personal information records protected under the Act. The real question is…
How is personal information defined under the FOIP Act?
“For information to be considered ‘personal’ under the law, the record must render the individual identifiable,” explains Joan Dunlop, Partner at Cenera and one of the Leads in the Privacy and Information Management Practice.
Section 1 (n) of the Act defines ‘personal information’ as recorded information about an identifiable individual, including but not limited to:
- name, home address, phone, e-mail
- race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religious or political beliefs or associations
- age, sex, marital status or family status
- identifying number or symbol
- fingerprints, blood type, other biometric information
- health and health care history, information about disability
- educational, financial, employment, criminal history
- opinions about an individual
- opinions of an individual unless it is about someone else
“Some information on its own, while listed in the definition, may not make me identifiable,” Joan continues. “For example, my age written down doesn’t make me identifiable, unless my name or some other information about me is on that same record or can be linked to other information about me.”
On the other hand, there are things that people consider personal that aren’t covered under FOIP. “My name on a land title document is my personal information. However, the legal land description and the assessed value is not,” concludes Dunlop.
As privacy concerns and public awareness grow in our interconnected world, regulators are cracking down. Now is the time for organizations to review their privacy and information management strategies to ensure that sensitive information is protected, and organizational reputations are managed. If you have questions or concerns about navigating the privacy landscape, you’re not alone, and we can help.
Cenera’s Privacy and Information Management team offers expert FOIP support and training, helping newly appointed FOIP Coordinators and public body employees understand their Access, Privacy and Information Management obligations.
May 5, 2020 – Privacy Management in Alberta Public Bodies (Edmonton, AB)
May 6, 2020 – Access to Information in Alberta Public Bodies (Edmonton, AB)
May 12, 2020 – Privacy Management in Alberta Public Bodies (Calgary, AB)
May 13, 2020 – Access to Information in Alberta Public Bodies (Calgary, AB)
October 20, 2020 – Privacy Management in Alberta Public Bodies (Edmonton, AB)
October 21, 2020 – Access to Information in Alberta Public Bodies (Edmonton, AB)
November 3, 2020 – Privacy Management in Alberta Public Bodies (Calgary, AB)
November 4, 2020 – Access to Information in Alberta Public Bodies (Calgary, AB)
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