The Privacy Commissioner of Canada has published its fourth PIPEDA finding of 2011: Commissioner’s Findings - PIPEDA Report of Findings #2011-004: Laurier Optical Improperly Discloses Client’s Personal Information - March 31, 2011. What is most notable is that she "names names", principally because the organization did not respond to her recommendations:
As a result of the circumstances examined in this investigation and the outstanding issues, the Privacy Commissioner was of the view that Laurier Optical’s personal-information handling practices in this case should be made public and exercised her discretion to publicly name the organization..
Here is the summary of the investigation and "Lessons Learned":
An individual who was seeking a refund from Laurier Optical because two pairs of prescription eyeglasses didn’t satisfy him, was shocked to discover the company had copied its written response to his request to 10 different parties.
He complained to our Office that the optometry chain, which has locations in Ontario and Quebec, disclosed his personal information without consent and subsequently failed to provide him with access to his personal information.
The man had obtained two prescriptions from Laurier Optical and found that neither satisfied him. As a result, he obtained a prescription from an independent optometrist who worked elsewhere.
After receiving the refund request, Laurier Optical initiated a complaint against the independent optometrist with the Ontario College of Optometrists. The company alleged the optometrist had incorrectly told the complainant that Laurier Optical had not performed a proper eye exam.
In its written response to the refund request, Laurier Optical included the complainant’s home address, telephone number and details of his three prescriptions, as well as a description of the prescription dispute. The complainant felt it contained false statements damaging to his character. The letter also stated that Laurier Optical would ask two other professional bodies and the two biggest lens manufacturing labs in Canada to evaluate the three prescriptions and obtain neutral opinions.
The letter was copied to 10 different parties, including various Laurier Optical officials; the Ontario College of Optometrists; the College of Opticians of Ontario, the independent optometrist; the company that made the complainant’s lenses, as well as another lens manufacturing company.
The complainant also requested access to his personal information held by Laurier Optical, but received no documentation in response.
Following an investigation, our Office found both the disclosure and access complaints to be well founded.
It was not necessary for Laurier Optical to disclose the complainant’s personal information to the College of Opticians or the lens manufacturers in order to demonstrate that the lenses it had provided to the complainant were appropriate. Even if these organizations could provide relevant input, they could have done so without knowing the complainant’s name, address, telephone number or details of the dispute. Similarly, it was not necessary to provide the independent optometrist with this information.
We recommended that Laurier Optical train its staff about PIPEDA’s requirements regarding the protection of clients’ personal information.
The organization did not respond.
As a result of the circumstances examined in this investigation and the outstanding issues, the Privacy Commissioner was of the view that Laurier Optical’s personal-information handling practices in this case should be made public and exercised her discretion to publicly name the organization.
- If an organization is contemplating the disclosure of a client’s personal information without consent, it must ensure that one of the exceptions to consent under subsection 7(3) applies.
- The sharing of personal information with other employees or agents of an organization is considered to be a “use” under the Act, rather than a “disclosure.” Therefore, if an organization is contemplating such a use of personal information without the individual’s consent, it must ensure that one of the exceptions to consent under subsection 7(2) applies.
- When in receipt of a request for access to personal information, organizations must respond in a meaningful way, even if only to indicate that they have already provided the individual with all of their information.