Information and Privacy Commissioner Releases Report on Email Error

March 23, 2001

Bob Clark, Information and Privacy Commissioner, today released Investigation Report 2001-IR-001 dealing with Alberta Children’s Services (the Public Body). The report dealt with confidential information about children in-need sent to the wrong e-mail address.

The report said the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act places a duty on public bodies to ensure that personal information is secure and not improperly disclosed.

“The Public Body must be far more mindful of the implications on the use of this personal information,” Clark said. “The Public Body should only be using the minimal amount of personal information required. In this case, far more information was e-mailed than was needed to do the job.”

Clark pointed out the Public Body needs to assess the risks of errant e-mail. He noted the Public Body has taken steps to prevent this incident from happening again.

The Commissioner added that the recipient of the errant e-mail should have contacted the department immediately instead of turning the information over to the media. Clark was disappointed with the Edmonton Sun for printing as much personal information about the children as they did and called on the newspaper to destroy any information they may have on these children.

The Commissioner said that the software used by Internet Service Provider’s which automatically try to “guess” at an incorrect e-mail address and redirect it, is not a good feature. The Commissioner has spoken with the Chief Information Officer for the province and asked him to look into this matter.