Breach, Privacy

Ontario privacy complaints on the rise

June 6, 2012

Ontario received a record number of privacy complaints last year, according to the province's privacy commissioner. Some 266 new complaints were opened, which was up 5.6 percent over the previous year.

The data, which came from the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner's 2011 annual report, showed that Ontarians were most worried about who was seeing their information.

Most of the complaints (63.2 percent) concerned information disclosure, with the next most common being security complaints. The third most common grievance concerned data collection.

The complaints were filed under the provincial and municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Acts. Roughly half of the complaints were filed under each act.

Complaints were also filed under the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA). These increased 20 percent over last year. Almost half of these (46.2 percent) concerned public hospitals. 39 percent of all PHIPA complaint files opened in 2011 were self-reported breaches, while 18.5 percent were complaints by individuals. However, 123 (35 percent) of the complaints filed under PHIPA were from people wanting to see their personal data and correct it, rather than complaining about its misuse.

Seven percent of PHIPA complaints were initiated by the information privacy commissioner herself. One of these was Health Order number 11, filed against Cancer Care Ontario. The commissioner ordered the organization to stop transferring paper-based screening reports to primary care physicians via courier after 7,000 health records were lost in October 2011.

Fourteen rulings made by the privacy commissioner came under judicial review in 2011. Two of those reviews resulted in decisions not being upheld, and were sent back to the commissioner's office.
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