18 June 2012

Tories involved in violation of privacy act #nlpoli

The temperature in the House of Assembly is not even cooled down and Tory legislator Paul Lane (Mount Pearl South) is likely to find himself in the middle of a controversy involving the disclosure of personal information that is supposed to be protected under the Access to Information and Protection of Personal Privacy Act.

On Sunday, Lane tweeted:

lane tweet

The Mitchelmore who Lane is referring to is apparently New Democrat Chris Mitchell, representing the Straits and White Bay North. Lane appears to have been discussing what would be considered frivolous or vexatious requests under amendments to the access law passed last week after a historic filibuster by the opposition parties.

Assuming Lane had a legal right to know anything about access requests in a provincial government department in the first place,  it doesn’t appear that Lane had the right to disclose the information. In section 39, ATIPPA (2002) sets out the limited circumstances in which anyone may legally disclose personal information.

But there’s an even more fundamental problem:  Paul Lane doesn’t appear to have any legal right to know details of access requests by members of the House of Assembly. Someone had to give Lane the information in the first place so there could be daisy chain of violations.

According to an e-mail from the province’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner posted by labradore,

Our Office takes the position that, pursuant to section 39(2) of the ATIPPA, the disclosure of the personal information of the Applicant should be limited to the minimum amount necessary to respond to the access request. Therefore, the request should be anonymized [sic] and every effort should be made to protect the privacy of the Applicant.

So how did Lane get the information in the first place? 

Good question.

On the face of it, though, it would appear someone violated the province’s access and privacy laws.

Under section 72 of ATIPPA, a person is guilty of an offence if he or she wilfully discloses personal information contrary to Part IV of the Act.  The punishment - on summary conviction – is a fine of not more than $5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or  both.