Commissioner Concludes Probe into Edmonton Police Service Project OWE

March 24, 2014

The Edmonton Police Service (EPS) has been found in contravention of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (the FOIP Act) following an investigation by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) into Project Operation Warrant Execution (Project OWE), an EPS initiative intended to address a large volume of outstanding warrants in Edmonton.

Project OWE was implemented in 2012 in stages. The first stage featured a public campaign that encouraged individuals to come forward and address their outstanding warrants by a certain date or risk having their names and faces advertised publicly. In the second stage, EPS published names, photographs, and other personal information of individuals in various local newspapers and on the EPS website.

Information and Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton initiated an investigation into Project OWE on her own motion to ensure it was in compliance with the FOIP Act and to ensure that consideration was given to the protection of personal information.

“Campaigns such as this, which include the public release of personal information, must always consider the privacy laws of this province”, commented Commissioner Clayton. “This investigation demonstrates the importance of a planned and thoughtful approach to assessing privacy risks before launching any new initiative.”

Today, Clayton released the investigation report which concludes that the EPS did not make reasonable security arrangements to protect personal information as required under the FOIP Act when it implemented Project OWE. The investigation also found that the EPS had authority to disclose some, but not all, of the personal information, and that EPS did not limit the extent of personal information disclosed to what was necessary to carry out its purposes in a reasonable manner.

Based on these findings, the report recommends that the EPS:

  • complete and submit a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) to the OIPC for review prior to undertaking Project OWE again or any new initiative involving the public disclosure of personal information;
  • establish a policy for requiring PIAs when designing major projects or initiatives that involve the collection, use or disclosure of personal information prior to the implementation of the project; and
  • develop a review and approval process that includes the EPS FOIPP Coordinator/FOIPP Office in initiatives or projects that involve the collection, use or disclosure of personal information.