Federal government may have violated privacy of new citizens

Phone blitz to get people to attend photo op used private information for non authorized use

Citizens were phone solicited to attend Sun Media

The scandal around Minister Jason Kenny having Immigration Canada staff pose as new Canadians for a promotional “news” video got a little deeper today.

The Globe and Mail reported that Immigration staff were told by the Ministers office to find new Canadians to attend the staged ceremony. 

In a last minute rush, staff accessed personal files of immigrants to solicit attendance. One government employee admitted calling more than 300 people.

“Retired colonel Michel Drapeau, an Ottawa-based lawyer who specializes in access to information and privacy issues, said there appears to have been a breach of the Privacy Act.” (Globe and Mail)

“He points to a section that says personal data under the control of a government institution shouldn’t be used “except for the purpose for which the information was obtained or compiled by the institution or for a use consistent with that purpose.”

“There are exceptions, but none of them refer to promotional or media activities.”

“In this case, when I see it, anybody and everybody who submitted their information to the government of Canada to become a Canadian citizen did not say ‘You can use this information to use me as a political prop or an advertising prop or whatever else it is’,” said Mr. Drapeau.

“Privacy experts quoted in the Globe were concerned that new citizens might feel threatened by a call from the government.
Anne-Marie Hayden, a spokeswoman for the federal privacy commissioner, said the office couldn’t speculate on whether there had been a violation of the Act without conducting a detailed examination.”

“If, however, an individual who was contacted has concerns that this may have been a privacy violation, they could file a complaint with our office and we would investigate,” Ms. Hayden said.”

The story highlights the need to be sensitive to the actual purpose for collecting personal information.

Quotes from ‘Fake citizens’ ceremony plan might have violated privacy of new Canadians

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