Order 98-010: Summary
DATE: May 26, 1998
PUBLIC BODY: Workers' Compensation Board
FOIP REQUEST: The applicant had asked the Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) to make a correction to a recorded opinion about the applicant, which it did. The applicant then requested three further corrections to personal information, including a correction to the "corrected" opinion. The WCB refused. The applicant asked the Information and Privacy Commissioner to review the decisions on the correction requests. The applicant also complained that the WCB had breached his privacy by attempting to send his former employer a letter detailing some of the applicant's recent injuries.
ISSUES: The applicant submitted that the information should be corrected since it was not supported by evidence. The WCB submitted that the provision for correcting personal information (section 35) could not be used to correct an opinion, whether or not it was supported by evidence, if the opinion properly expressed the view of the author at the time the opinion was recorded. In response to the applicant's claim that the WCB had breached his personal privacy when it attempted to send the letter to his former employer, the WCB argued that it had not breached the applicant's privacy because the letter was not actually delivered to the former employer.
DECISION AND REASONS:
- The Commissioner noted that the provision for correction of personal information (section 35(1)) must be read with section 51(2)(d), which provides a right of review by the Commissioner if a correction is "refused without justification." A public body therefore has a duty to seek clarification from an applicant if it does not understand the applicant's request for correction of personal information.
- Following Order 97-020, the Commissioner stated that an opinion which accurately reflects the view of the author at the time the opinion was recorded cannot be considered an "error" or "omission" and is therefore not subject to correction. The WCB erred in changing the word "fraud" to "deliberate misrepresentation" in response to the applicant's initial request for correction of personal information. The Commissioner noted that he had jurisdiction to order that a correction be reversed, but he did not exercise his discretion to do so in this case as it would not have benefited the applicant.
- The Commissioner found that the WCB had acted in accordance with the provision for correction of personal information when it refused to make the three corrections requested by the applicant. The applicant did not dispute that certain opinion information accurately reflected the views of the author. With respect to disputed factual information, the applicant failed to discharge the burden of proof by providing evidence that the information was incorrect. Therefore, the information was not subject to correction, but the request for correction must be annotated or linked to the file.
- The Commissioner cited B.C. Order 124-1996 with regard to the general principles that apply when making an annotation under section 35(2). When annotating or linking information, a public body has the discretion to make administrative decisions as to how it will proceed. However, the annotations must be as visible and accessible as the information under challenge, the annotations should be retrieved with the original file, and a public body should make the annotation or linkage in a fair manner.
- The applicant failed to prove the alleged breach of privacy. Evidence submitted by the WCB of the returned unopened envelope was sufficient to conclude that the applicant's personal information was not disclosed to the former employer. However, the WCB was not authorized to disclose the information under the Workers' Compensation Act and, if the letter had been disclosed, it would have been a breach of the complainant's personal privacy.
The Commissioner upheld the decision to refuse the applicant's request for correction of his personal information but ordered the WCB to annotate or link the applicant's requests for correction to the respective records.
SECTOR: Government - Other