Investigation Report F2003-IR-001: Summary
INVESTIGATION REPORT: F2003-IR-001
DATE: Submitted February 19, 2003; signed by the Commissioner February 21, 2003; publicly released February 24, 2003
PUBLIC BODY: Alberta Children's Services
ISSUES: Alberta Children's Services launched a public website containing the detailed personal information of 90 children who were available for adoption. Descriptions of the children on the website contained detailed information about the children's medical physical and behavioural conditions as well as sensitive information on traumatic experiences in their lives. Children's Services had obtained the consent of the children who were 12 years of age or older. A Privacy Impact Assessment had not been submitted to the Information and Privacy Commissioner before the website was launched. The Commissioner initiated an investigation into whether Children's Services had authority under section 40(1) of the FOIP Act to disclose the children's personal information and whether they disclosed personal information only to the extent necessary as required by section 40(4).
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS:
The Portfolio Officer appointed by the Commissioner made the following findings:
- Children's Services was authorized to disclose the children's personal information on the website because the disclosure was for the purpose for which the information was collected or compiled (section 40(1)(c)). The children's personal information was collected for the purpose of finding adoption homes for the children. The information was disclosed on the website for the same purpose.
- Children's Services was also authorized by an enactment of Alberta to disclose the children's personal information (section 40(1)(f)). Section 85(2)(b) of the Child Welfare Act permits the disclosure of information for the publication of an advertisement authorized by the Minister of Children's Services for the purpose of finding adoption homes for children in custody. Section 126(2)(l) of the Child Welfare Act permits the disclosure of any information to any person with the consent of the Minister.
- Since Children's Services had authority under sections 40(1)(c) and 40(1)(f) of the FOIP Act to disclose the personal information, it was not required to obtain the consent of the children. In addition, the Minister of Children's Services, as legal guardian of the children, had the legal authority to consent on their behalf. However, if Children's Services wished to rely on section 40(1)(d) of the FOIP Act for authority to disclose the personal information because the child had consented, it had to ensure that consent was obtained in the prescribed manner as outlined in section 6 of the FOIP Regulation.
- This is the first consideration of section 40(4) of the FOIP Act. The disclosure on the website of highly sensitive personal information was more personal information than was required for Children's Services to carry out its intended purpose of finding adoption homes for the children. Children's Services subsequently revised the information on the website so that the descriptions only contained personal information necessary to provide prospective adoptive parents with sufficient information about the child. The revised descriptions were in compliance with section 40(4).
Children's Services removed the highly sensitive personal information of the children from the website. It also undertook to conduct an evaluation in three months to determine the effectiveness of the website and report the findings to the Commissioner. Evaluations will continue to be conducted at reasonable intervals and any concerns that may arise will be addressed. Social workers will be required to confirm that every child is aware he or she was available for adoption and that their information is on the website. Others involved in caring for the child are also to be informed that the child will be on the website. Children under 12 years of age will be asked if they object to their personal information being placed on the website, and if so, their information will not be placed on the website.
SECTOR: Government - Departments