Information and Privacy Commissioner Bob Clark today released Investigation Report 99-IR-001. The report concludes an investigation into the collection of personal information about new mothers by Vital Statistics.
This matter came to the Commissioner’s attention initially from an article published by the National Post on January 5, 1999. Based on the information presented in the article, the Commissioner decided to conduct an investigation into this matter. Subsequently, a member of the Legislative Assembly also requested that the Commissioner investigate this matter.
The National Post had questioned Vital Statistics’ practice of collecting certain information from the “Notice of Live Birth or Stillbirth and Newborn Record” form which physicians complete subsequent to a birth.
The investigation found that Vital Statistics collects the notice of birth for three purposes. First, to validate information pertaining to the registration of a birth/stillbirth. Second, to confirm that a birth/stillbirth event has occurred in the Province of Alberta. Third, to collect information on behalf of Alberta Health.
Vital Statistics does not retain information from the notice of birth on its database. After validating the registration of a birth/stillbirth and confirming that a birth/stillbirth event occurred, Vital Statistics sends the notice of birth to Alberta Health. Alberta Health collects information from the notice of birth for the purposes of improving health outcomes, compiling medical statistics, medical research and public health surveillance in the public interest. Alberta Health reports the information only in statistical or aggregate form.
Both Vital Statistics and Alberta Health must comply with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (the “FOIP Act”) in their collection of personal information.
Under section 2 and section 8(8) of the Vital Statistics Act, Vital Statistics is authorized to collect the notice of birth. This complies with section 32(a) of the FOIP Act (collection authorized by or under an Act of Alberta or Canada).
Section 32(c) of the FOIP Act allows Vital Statistics to collect information that is necessary for the registration process from the notice of birth. However, Vital Statistics’ collection of information on behalf of Alberta Health that is not necessary for the registration process is not in accordance with section 32(c) of the FOIP Act.
Section 2 of the Vital Statistics Act allows Vital Statistics to indirectly collect personal information.
Section 40(2) of the Hospitals Act authorizes Alberta Health to collect the notice of birth and to collect information from sources other than the individual the
information is about. Section 40(2) of the Hospitals Act also allows the Minister of Alberta Health to designate the Director of Vital Statistics to collect information on behalf of Alberta Health.
Alberta Health has confirmed that the Director of Vital Statistics has been formally designated to collect information on behalf of Alberta Health. Vital Statistics and Alberta Health indicated this is an interim solution to ensure ongoing program and data continuity. Vital Statistics and Alberta Health will be working together to find a solution that will eliminate the need for Vital Statistics to receive information beyond that which is necessary and authorized for the registration of a birth/stillbirth.
The report concludes that the collection of the notice of birth by Vital Statistics and Alberta Health complies with the collection provisions under Part 2 of the FOIP Act.