Findings under the Privacy Act

ARCHIVED - No proof Human Rights Commission accessed woman's Internet connection

A woman complained that the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) improperly collected and used her personal information. She alleged that, in the course of an investigation, the CHRC accessed her wireless Internet connection to log on and post messages to a white supremacist website.

In response to a subpoena issued during the course of a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal public hearing, an Internet Service Provider disclosed the name, address and phone number of the Internet subscriber it associated with an Internet Protocol (IP) address that had allegedly been accessed by the CHRC during its investigation. The named subscriber was the complainant.

This Office has previously concluded that an IP address can be considered personal information if it can be associated with an identifiable individual.

However, our investigation found no evidence that the CHRC ever collected, used or disclosed any personal information about the complainant – or, indeed, even knew of her prior to the allegations made at the tribunal hearing. Technological experts suggested that the association of the complainant’s IP address to the CHRC was simply a mismatch by a third party, which could have occurred in a variety of ways not involving the CHRC.

We concluded that the complaint was not well-founded. However, we cautioned Canadians to properly secure their Internet connections to avoid unauthorized access to their personal information.