Frank Work, Q.C., Acting Information and Privacy Commissioner, publicly released an investigation report into a complaint against the University of Alberta regarding the disclosure and use of a confidential 1996 letter.
The Complainant was employed with the U of A. In 1996, the U of A investigated a complaint against the Complainant. The results of the investigation were summarized in the 1996 Letter.
In March 2000, the Complainant filed a complaint with the U of A against two former colleagues. The U of A conducted an investigation and during the investigation, the Colleagues provided a copy of the 1996 Letter to the U of A investigator.
The Complainant questioned how the Colleagues obtained the 1996 Letter. The Complainant said the Colleagues had “no right to access the information in the first place nor to use it for this new purpose.”
As the 1996 Letter contained information about the Complainant, the information at issue is “personal information” and is subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (the “FOIP Act”).
The investigation found that an individual employed with the U of A disclosed the 1996 Letter to the Colleagues. In previous orders, the Commissioner said that public bodies would be held accountable under the FOIP Act for the actions of its employees. As the disclosure of the 1996 Letter did not fall under any of the disclosure provisions of the FOIP Act, the investigation concludes that the U of A did disclose personal information in violation of the FOIP Act.
The investigation also determined that the Colleagues’ use of the 1996 Letter was not in accordance with the use provisions set out in the FOIP Act. Therefore, the investigation concludes that the U of A used personal information in violation of the FOIP Act.
The investigation recommended that the U of A ensure its employees understand their respective responsibilities and obligations under the FOIP Act. Further, employees should be informed that their actions have the potential of placing the U of A in breach of the FOIP Act. The U of A has accepted the findings and recommendation of the investigation report.