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Job Posting for Access and Privacy Investigator

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for Nova Scotia is in the process of hiring an investigator.  This is a permanent full time position.  If you are interested, check out the job posting on the Provincial Government's Job Centre webpage:  Job Centre Nova Scotia

Information and Privacy Commissioner releases Review Report 17-01

The applicant worked for the Department of Justice (Department) in a unit that endured a series of complaints and counter-complaints.  Those complaints resulted in a number of internal investigations by the Department.  The applicant was the subject of some of these investigations; in other investigations he was a complainant; in still others a witness.  The applicant sought access to records relating to all of the investigations.

Records of workplace investigations are challenging to review under access laws.  They often contain intertwined personal information of employees.  In this case, the Department argued that disclosure of certain records could variously reveal advice to the public body or minister, harm law enforcement, disclose information protected by solicitor-client privilege and unreasonably invade the privacy of third parties.

The Commissioner concludes that, for the most part, the Department correctly applied the exemptions.  The Commissioner recommends some further disclosure where the Department fails to meet its burden of proof.  She recommends that a summary be prepared of the applicant's own personal information and finally she confirms that under Nova Scotia's access law public bodies cannot withhold records as "non-responsive".  Read more...

Information and Privacy Commissioner releases Review Report 17-02

The applicant requested copies of interview notes created during an internal workplace investigation.  Although the Public Service Commission denied him access to the interview notes of third parties, it provided him with a summary of those notes and with a complete copy of the  notes from his own interview.  The Commissioner finds that the applicant in this case has failed to satisfy the burden of proof he bears when attempting to gain access to third party personal information.  The Commissioner concludes that the Public Service Commission properly withheld third party personal information and fully satisfied its duty to assist when it created the record summary.  Read more...

Information and Privacy Commissioner releases Review Report 16-14

Government departments collect substantial amounts of personal information on citizens.  They employ staff who are trusted to access this personal information so the staff can do their jobs.  But staff are not given access rights to databases of personal information so they can satisfy their curiosity.  Any staff access to personal information must be authorized by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPOP).  In this case, the Commissioner finds that a number of correctional officers accessed the personal information of the complainant in a workplace database out of curiosity.  The Department of Justice (Department) failed to establish that the officers' access to the data was necessary for the work-related duties of the officers. The Commissioner recommends further training.

Information was also accessed by other Department staff as part of an investigation into an alleged improper relationship between the inmate and a correctional officer.  In those instances, the Commissioner noted that a Department's ability to use personal information in a way that differs from the reasons why it was originally collected is limited by FOIPOP.  Any additional uses of personal information must be reasonably connected to the purpose for which the informaiton was collected in the first place.  The Commissioner considers that the system was intended to ensure that inmates are treated fairly and in accordance with court orders.  The system was also used to ensure the safety of other inmates, staff and the public.  The Commissioner finds that an investigation into an improper relationship between an inmate and a correctional officer was directly related to ensuring that the inmate would be treated fairly in any future involvement with the facility, and that the facility remained safe.  As a result, the Commissioner finds that the Department was authorized to use the complainant's personal information to complete the investigation.  Read more...

Information and Privacy Commissioner releases Review Report 16-13

An applicant sought access to records relating to his father's prison term.  The Department of Justice (Department) disclosed portions of two of the 24 pages to the applicant.  The Department denied access to the names of correctional officers.  It argued that releasing this information would lead to correctional officers facing pressure to import contraband and thereby harm law enforcement.  The Department denied access to the administrative forms used to manage the applicant's father's prison term, claiming disclosure would be unreasonable of the father's privacy.

The Commissioner finds that the Department's evidence did not establish that the anticipated harms to law enforcement were more than merely possible.  She recommends disclosure of the correctional officers' names.

The Commissioner finds that the template material from the forms was not personal information and therefore the Department could not apply the third party personal information exemption to the information.  Finally, the Commissioner finds that the disclosure of the father's personal information would not be an unreasonable invasion of his privacy and recommends full disclosure.  The evidence the applicant supplied showed a relationship of trust between the applicant and his father.  The Commissioner finds the personal information involved - once the fact of the father's incarceration had already been disclosed - was not highly sensitive.  In addition, the applicant's demonstrated knowledge of his father's circumstances evinced a compassionate consideration supporting disclosure.  Read more...


December 6, 2016

HALIFAX - Today Nova Scotia's Information and Privacy Commissioner, Catherine Tully, joined with all her federal and provincial colleagues to make a formal submission to the federal government's public consultation on Canada's national security framework.

The submission calls for effective oversight as well as reasonable and proportionate rules for investigating agencies.  The ability of the national security aparatus to intrude on Nova Scotians' privacy is significant, and the call for effective safeguards can help protect Nova Scotians' privacy rights.

The submission underscores issues with significant implications for the privacy of Canadians, including the collection and use of metadata by national security agencies as well as law enforcement; encryption; and information sharing by government.  It also stresses the importance of transparency reporting and effective oversight, particularly for institutions not currently subject to expert review.  The full submission is available on the website of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada: 

Read the full submission here:  Consultation on Canada's National Security Framework  


November 23, 2016

Commissioner's investigation determines that faxing failures put sensitive mental health information at risk.

HALIFAX - Three separate breaches of sensitive mental health information have led Nova Scotia's Information and Privacy Commissioner, Catherine Tully, to call for improvements in how the health system transmits personal health information.  In a new report issued today, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) examined three separate incidents in 2015 and 2016 in which mental health referral forms were mistakenly faxed to a private business.  The report draws attention to the obligations private practice physicians and the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) have to ensure that personal health information in their control is transmitted carefully. Read more...

Read Investigation Report IR16-02

Information and Privacy Commissioner releases Review Report 16-12

The applicant sought access to the amount of money paid to a former South Shore Regional School Board (School Board) employee to settle a series of legal disputes.  The School Board refused to disclose the information, claiming that disclosure would consititute an unreasonable invasion of privacy and harm the economic interests of the Province. The School Board also claimed that settlement privilege at common law applied and refused disclosure on that basis.  The employee's Union became a party, supporting the initial decision of the School Board.  The Union further objected to disclosure on the basis that disclosure would reveal confidential labour relations information.

The Commissioner finds that the amount of money paid as part of the settlement agreement was remuneration of a public body employee and so disclosure of the information is not an unreasonable invasion of privacy.  The other terms of the agreement had previously been made public by the School Board's actions, and so any privacy interest on behalf of the employee was significantly diminished.  Disclosure would therefore not constitute an unreasonable invasion of privacy.  The Commissioner finds the evidence of harm to either economic interests or labour relations insufficient in the circumstances to meet the requirements of the exemptions.

The Commissioner determines that the legislature intended the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPOP) to be an exhaustive code with respect to restrictions on the right of access to government information.  She finds that FOIPOP does not permit the addition of a free-standing exemption based upon the common law regarding settlement privilege. Read more...

Information and Privacy Commissioner releases Review Report 16-11

An applicant sought access to details of a loan offer between the Province of Nova Scotia and Irving Shipbuilding.  The Executive Council Office withheld information claiming that certain portions of the records were "not responsive" to the access request. The Executive Council Office claimed that disclosure of certain other information would variously harm the government's economic interests, harm the business interests of a third party business, and unreasonably invade the personal privacy of third party individuals.  The Executive Council Office's representations relied on those provided by the Department of Business and considered in Review Report 16-10.

The Commissioner finds that none of the reasons for withholding information were established, and recommends full disclosure. Read more... 

New/Updated Publications Now Available

Video Surveillance Guidelines

Video Surveillance Policy Template

2017-2018 French-language Service Plan (PDF) / Plan de services en français 2017-2018 (PDF)

Access & Privacy - A Councillor's Guide 

PHIA Review Recommendations 

Instant Messaging and Personal Email Accounts Guide

Government Disclosures Available Online

Guide to OIPC NS Processes (PDF)

PHIA - Rules Summary and Checklist for Custodians (PDF)