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Privacy of Personal Information

Saskatchewan has laws to protect the privacy of personal information in the hands of provincial or municipal governments and government institutions. This information deals with the privacy of personal information, other than medical information. For information about the privacy of health records see Privacy of Medical Records.

The Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner oversees the privacy rights of the citizens of Saskatchewan.

Q

Who do Privacy Laws Apply to?

A

The legal responsibility to keep personal information private under Saskatchewan law applies to the provincial and municipal governments and their institutions. It does not apply to private individuals, private businesses, non-profit organizations or the federal government.

Government institutions include government boards or commissions and crown corporations. Ministries, cities, municipalities, universities, boards of education, libraries, and police services, as well as MLA and cabinet ministers’ offices, are all governed by privacy laws.

Q

What is Personal Information?

A

Generally personal information is any information about an identifiable individual. It includes things like your name, your address, your education, employment or criminal history and your financial information.

It also includes any information that identifies your race, creed, religion, colour, sex, sexual orientation, family status or marital status, disability, age, nationality, ancestry or place of origin.

Your views and opinions are also personal information unless they are about someone else. If they are about someone else then your views or opinions are the personal information of that person.

Q

What is not Personal Information?

A

Some information is not considered personal information for the purposes of privacy laws. Information about salaries, benefits and employment responsibilities of employees of government institutions are not covered by privacy laws. Opinions or views of these employees given as part of their employment are not considered personal information unless they are about another individual.

Travel expenses when paid for by a government institution are also not covered by privacy laws. Other information that is not considered personal information includes information about a licence, permit or other similar benefit the government has given an individual and details of a contract for personal services.

Collection of Personal Information

Government institutions cannot collect your personal information unless they need it for a program or activity of the institution. The program or activity can be ongoing or one that the institution plans to start.

Generally any personal information a government institution needs must be collected directly from you. You can consent to having your personal information collected in another way. There are also exceptions, such as when information is being collected to start a court case or for the purposes of law enforcement.

Use or Disclosure of Personal Information

Government institutions must notify you about unauthorized use or disclosure of your personal information if there is a real risk of you being significantly harmed.

Once they have your personal information, a government institution can only use it or disclose it for the activity they collected the information for unless you consent to the use. There are a number of exceptions that allow your personal information to be used or disclosed for other purposes without your consent. These include providing information that is required for law enforcement purposes or to locate you for the purpose of collecting a debt you owe the government.

Duty to Protect

Government institutions that collect personal information must take steps to prevent the information from being accessed, used, disclosed or modified by people or institutions that are not authorized.

Personal information must be protected from being stolen or destroyed by things like fire or floods. Electronic information must be protected with passwords and firewalls. Policies must be in place to protect personal information, including training of staff that handles personal information.

Accessing your Personal Information

You can apply for access to your personal information by contacting the government institution that has the information. Government institutions can refuse to give you access to information they have gathered to determine whether to hire you or award a contract or other benefit to you if the information was supplied with the understanding that it would be kept confidential.

The first step is to determine the information you want and the name of the government institution that has the information. You then complete an Access to Information Request Form and send it to the government institution.

The government institution has 30 days to respond. They can require you to pay a fee for finding your information and making copies. If the government office refuses your request you can apply to the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner to review the decision.

Correcting your Personal Information

If you have accessed your personal information you can request that it be corrected if you feel any of the information is not correct. The government institution can make the correction or make a note on the file that a correction was requested but denied.

They can also refuse the request and not make a note on your file. In this case they need to provide you with their reasons. Correction requests can be refused for a number of reasons, including if they are trivial or not made in good faith.

Members of the Legislative Offices are covered by privacy laws but you cannot request copies of your personal information from them or ask that it be corrected.

Privacy Complaints

If you think a government institution has violated your privacy rights you start by complaining directly to that institution in writing. If after 30 days they have not responded or you are not satisfied with their response, you can complain in writing to the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner. They will investigate and try to resolve the complaint. If the complaint cannot be settled a report will be issued with findings and recommendations on how to prevent future incidents.

Privacy Breaches

Anyone who knowingly collects, uses or discloses personal information in a way not allowed by privacy laws can be charged with a summary conviction offence and, if found guilty, fined up to $50,000 and be sentenced to up to a year in jail.

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