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Update Ontario’s privacy laws, urges commissioner

In his 2015 Annual Report, Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Brian Beamish is calling on the government to update the province’s access and privacy laws to ensure Ontarians’ rights are better protected.


July 4, 2016
By Canadian Security

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The Commissioner recommends that this update expand coverage and address changing technology.

“Other provinces have strengthened access and privacy laws to meet the challenges of modern society and it is time for Ontario to do the same. Ontario’s legislation now lags behind the standards established in other Canadian jurisdictions,” states Beamish.

It has been almost thirty years since the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) became law. Since that time, public expectations, technologies and the ways in which government does business have changed.

To keep pace with these changes, the Commissioner recommends: 

Expand Coverage: Decisions about which organizations are covered by the two acts have been made sporadically and case-by-case, resulting in inconsistent levels of accountability and transparency. Unless there are unique and compelling reasons not to, an organization should be subject to the law if:

   • it receives a significant amount of its operating funds from the government,
   • it delivers a program designed to support government objectives, or
   • the government plays a significant role in its policy development and operational direction.

Enact Privacy Complaint Order-Making Power: The IPC has order-making power in relation to access requests, but this power is not extended to privacy complaints.  Amending the law would enable the IPC to better protect the privacy rights of Ontarians by issuing binding orders to institutions that violate them.

Mandatory Proactive Disclosure of Identified Categories of Records: The legislation should be amended so that specific categories of information are identified for proactive disclosure, including, for example, procurement records.


Address Changing Technologies: A comprehensive review is needed to address:

   • the need for collaborative service delivery models and data sharing to support research and analysis, 
   • public expectations about online access to information and services, and 
   • the need to ensure that new technologies are used in a transparent and accountable manner, and do not negatively impact access and privacy rights.

 
The Commissioner’s full recommendations, the year in review and comprehensive statistics including freedom of information requests, compliance rates, appeals and privacy complaints are available in the 2015 Annual Report – Focus Ontario: A Year of Outreach, Engagement and Collaboration.