Monday, July 22, 2013

Privacy Concerns Or Just Plain Secrecy?

I started working on a post the other day about government and institutions' penchant for claiming 'privacy concerns' as an excuse for withholding the kind of information that true democracies are entitled to. However, I haven't had a lot of energy the past few days, so I think I will let Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian speak for me through a letter that was published in Today's Star.

Re: Unlicensed daycare complaints kept secret in Ontario, July 19

It really disturbs me when people hide behind privacy, using it as a shield to prevent much-needed scrutiny. Accordingly, I take issue with the statement by the Minister of Education that safety-related information of unlicensed daycares cannot be released due to “privacy concerns.” Privacy laws are not meant to protect individuals who break the law, nor to prevent the enforcement of safety requirements.

While I acknowledge there is a wide range of informal unlicensed daycare arrangements, it is the responsibility of the ministry to determine what it can release to parents proactively, according to the principles I have issued on Access by Design or the legislated provisions on disclosing information in compelling circumstances affecting health and safety. Parents should not have to file formal access requests for information the ministry holds that has an impact on the health and safety of children in unlicensed daycares — this should be made freely available. The ministry should not use privacy as a shield.

Ann Cavoukian, Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ontario

You may also find this Star editorial of interest as well.


  1. Who knows what incompetence, injustice and inhumanity is hidden behind the false shields of 'privacy' and 'national security' that organisations use to protect their interests.

    1. That is precisely the kind of question that needs to be asked, Anon.