The two complainants in Re City of Vaughan, MC08-91 and MC08-92 (Privacy Commissioner) sent numerous e-mail messages, requests for information and letters to staff at the City of Vaughan, as well as to former staff, members of city council and the mayor. Staff at the city took the view that the barrage of communications constituted harassment. The complainants had also been defendants in a lawsuit brought by the city, which resulted in a settlement under which the complainants agreed not to send further communications – but they continued anyway. Staff sent copies of the communications to in-house and external counsel. The complainants took this to the Privacy Commission, alleging that in failing to obtain the complainants’ consent to disclosure city staff had not ‘collected, used and disclosed’ their personal information in accordance with the municipal privacy statute.
The Commissioner disagreed: unsolicited personal information is not ‘collected’ by a municipality but merely received; compare and contrast another provision in the legislation which uses the broader formulation ‘obtained or compiled’. As a result, the city’s use of the personal information was OK; the individual’s consent is required only where that information is actually ‘collected’ by the municipality. [Link available here].