25 September 2014

No Privacy Protection in Marshall’s Office #nlpoli

Someone sent a request to the Premier’s Office for access to all “Email [sic], memos, letters, notes between Elizabeth Matthews and the premier’s office [sic] between June 1, 2013 and June 1, 2014”.

The Premier’s Office sent the person a couple of e-mails.  They deleted some information under section 30 (personal information) and section 7(2) of the Access to Information and Protection of Personal Privacy Act. That second section basically allows government to sever information that is exempted from disclosure.

Read the completed access request and you will see the only thing they deleted was Matthews’ e-mail address.

Problem:  the entire disclosure violates section 30 of the ATIPPA. 

The request is about a specific individual who, despite the fact she used to work on the 8th floor, is these days a private citizen. As such, she is entitled to contact the provincial government and should expect that her communication i9s exempted from disclosure just like anyone else’s would be.

On the face of it, the request doesn’t meet any of the exemptions listed in section 30 and, as such, is an unwarranted invasion of an individual’s personal privacy.

There is a provision in the Act that allows for the disclosure if the person consents, but there’s no indication in the letter to the requester from the Premier’s Office that Matthews consented to the disclosure.  That would be a pretty important thing since it would be the only way the Premier’s Office could release the information legally. 

Well, the only way unless the person requesting the information was Matthews, but in the context, that would be freakin’ absurd.  There’s no indication that was the case, either.

The two e-mails don’t contain any startling information.  We do learn that Matthews was doing some consulting work for Alderon and that was the reason for one of the contacts.  The other e-mail is a personal note intended ultimately for Tom Marshall and his wife.  It’s hard to see there is some overriding public policy reason for releasing it, either. If anything, the fact it is a personal note of congratulations for Marshall would tend to make it fall under section 30.

To put this in context, consider that someone asked for e-mails received by the Premier’s Office about the ATIPPA review.  In that case, the 8th Floor deleted names, e-mail addresses, other addresses and in some cases entire pages of the messages on the grounds they were section 30 personal privacy exemptions.

Same thing happened with the Telegram’s request for e-mails during #darknl.

In a request about Kathy Dunderdale’s trip to Brazil,  they deleted the name of the federal public servant who would be taking notes at meetings.  Public servants don’t usually get section 30 exemptions in their capacity as public servants.

Ditto for a request about communication related to Bill 29 in 2012.

Ironically, one of the few times we know that the Premier’s Office deliberately violated someone’s privacy rights under ATIPPA was when they targeted journalist Craig Westcott in a smear campaign after he went to work in the Opposition Office. Liz was directly involved in that illegal activity.  There’s no comparison of the two episodes but the reply to the request for Matthews’ emails is rather odd.