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Information and Privacy Commissioner releases Review Report 17-05

The applicant had significant concerns with the impact a development in her neighbourhood would have on her own property rights.  The applicant sought further information in relation to the development.  In its response, the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) withheld portions of the information citing third party personal privacy among other exemptions.  The Commissioner determines that the disclosure of the identity of neighbouring landowners who raised concerns with HRM would result in an unreasonable invasion of their personal privacy.

However, the Commissioner determines that much of the remaining withheld information should be disclosed since disclosure would not result in an unreasonable invasion of a third party's personal privacy.  The Commissioner recommends disclosure of initials of municipal employees confirming receipt of documents, the identity of individuals in a business context including the name of the Lord Bishop of Halifax from 1884, the historical name of the estate, opinions of individuals given in a business context, vague leave-related information, and all emails sent to or from the applicant.  The Commissioner agrees that, for the most part, information withheld as solicitor-client privilege was properly withheld.  The third party failed to provide any evidence in support of its claim that disclosure of a small amount of information would result in harm to its business interests. As a result, the Commissioner recommends disclosure of information withheld under the third party business exemption.  Read more...

Maritime Connections Support Forum - Access & Privacy Workshops

Verney Conference Management is presenting the Maritime Connections Support Forum at the Delta Halifax on June 26-27, 2017.  Staff members from the OIPC will be presenting three workshops for access and privacy professionals at the conference. For more information, including the agenda and how to register, visit the Maritime Connections Support Forum website.  

Information and Privacy Commissioner releases Review Report 17-04

The applicant is a former foster child who was placed into care as an infant and returned to his parents at the age of five.  He thrived in foster care and seeks information that would help him to understand why the Department of Community Services (Department) decided to return him to his parents' care.  The Commissioner recommends the disclosure of information directly related to the reasons why the applicant was returned to his parents.  The Commissioner further determines that disclosure of the names of individuals who served as the applicant's foster parents more than 50 years ago would not constitute an unreasonable invasion of their personal privacy.  The Commissioner agrees with the Department that information focussed solely on the identity or activities of the applicant's siblings should continue to be withheld. Read more...

Information and Privacy Commissioner releases Review Report 17-03

In five separate requests, the applicants applied for access to information concerning fish farms operations.  The Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture denied access to the bulk of information relating to laboratory reports and veterinary inspections, claiming that dislosure would cause harm to a third party business.  The applicants filed requests for review of those decisions, and the third party made submissions to the review.  The third party bears the burden of proving that all three elements of the third party business information exemption are met.  The Commissioner found that the third party had not established that veterinary and lab reports were supplied in confidence, and that it had failed to demonstrate that disclosure of cage configurations and restocking plans would cause the type of harms enumerated in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPOP).  Although a new statutory provision is now in place regarding the confidentiality of veterinary reporting, this provision was not in effect at the time of the access request and so did not apply to the information at issue. The Commissioner recommends full disclosure. Read more...

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...

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)