Ontario Municipalities Should Exercise Care in Publishing Personal Information

The Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) has published new guidance entitled,Transparency, Privacy and the Internet: Municipal Balancing Acts. This guidance follows a complaint by an individual whose personal information was posted to the Internet (initially, name, address, signature, email and other personal contact details) by the City of Vaughan without sufficiently informed consent. Although ultimately the IPC concluded in Privacy Complaint Report MC 13-67 that there was statutory authority for posting certain of this information, the complaint has resulted in the IPC providing guidance to municipalities on how to better balance making information publicly available over the Internet and the privacy interests of individuals.

The IPC’s guidance document recognizes that publication of personal information to the Internet is qualitatively different from other methods of making information available to the public. Responsible municipalities should consider a number of methods to balance the benefits of this approach to making information available with the privacy interests of individuals. Some of the recommendations include:

  • Proactive redaction of unnecessary personal details
  • Data minimization to reduce the quantity of information being collected and used in the first place
  • Technical measures to prevent page indexing so that the records will not be directly searchable through search engines

Although the guidance is voluntary, it is to be hoped that municipalities will implement the recommendations of the IPC to better enhance privacy of Ontarians.