Thursday, January 06, 2005

Commissioner speaks up on interpretation of the Privacy Act and naming tsunami victims

Jennifer Stoddart has spoken up, correcting politicians and public servants about the Privacy Act and its effect on the ability of the government to name tsunami victims. While the Act does generally prevent the disclosure of personal information, it does contain a public interest exception that the PM or the Minister of Foreign Affairs can invoke at any time. (See my very reference to the pubilc interest exception in PIPEDA and Canadian Privacy Law: Editorial urges that naming Canadian tsunami victims is in the public interest.)

Victoria Times Colonist - Naming the missing not a privacy issue:

"Watchdog: Commissioner says law does not prevent government from listing Canadians feared dead

OTTAWA -- Canada's privacy watchdog says she is concerned that federal government officials are 'misquoting' the Privacy Act to justify withholding the names of the estimated 150 Canadians missing and feared dead in the South Asian tsunami.

And Jennifer Stoddart said that she plans to discreetly warn government officials to stop misrepresenting the act to Canadians.

'When we read that the Privacy Act is being misquoted we usually follow up informally,' Stoddart said in an exclusive interview Wednesday.

'I continue to be concerned when I hear in the media public officials declaiming what the Privacy Act does not allow them to do,' Stoddart added.

'The Privacy Act does allow exceptional release of names where there's a public interest that outweighs an invasion of privacy.'

Stoddart's comments come after Prime Minister Paul Martin and a series of Foreign Affairs officials invoked Canada's Privacy Act as a blanket reason for not releasing the names of the 146 Canadians missing and feared dead in the Boxing Day tsunami that ravaged the Indian Ocean...."

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