Findings under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)

PIPEDA Case Summary #2003-227

Company did not record phone conversation and give transcript to the police

[Principle 4.3]

Complaint

An individual complained that a telecommunications company had (1) collected his personal information and (2) disclosed it to the police without his knowledge and consent. The complainant uses a service that connects a deaf or hard of hearing person using a text teletype machine with a hearing person using a voice telephone through an intermediary operator. He claimed that the company providing this service had taped his conversation with another individual and handed the transcript over to the police without his knowledge or consent.

Summary of Investigation

The complainant, who was accused of threatening a relative of his estranged girlfriend, alleged that the police had obtained a copy of the transcript of this call. He claimed that a representative of the company had told him that it keeps a record for four to seven days of the content of all communications for billing purposes and in case of complaints against the operator. Users of the system are not notified that their conversations are recorded.

The company denied that this was its practice and provided the Office with supporting documentation to show that it did not save or document any calls through its software or hardware. The only information kept on file is data and statistic related.

The Commissioner's Office reviewed the Crown Disclosure Package, which contains information obtained by the police with respect to the investigation, and which was provided to the complainant's lawyer. There were no transcripts of the conversation in question.

The police confirmed that it had contacted the telecommunications company to find out whether the operator kept any sort of record or transcripts of calls. According to the police, the company stated that it did not, and that such a practice was not permitted due to privacy issues. The police investigator stated that he did not receive any correspondence, transcript or otherwise, from the company.

Findings

Issued November 4, 2003

Jurisdiction: As of January 1, 2001, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (the Act) applies to any federal work, undertaking, or business. The Assistant Privacy Commissioner had jurisdiction in this case because a telecommunications company is a federal work, undertaking or business as defined in the Act.

Application: Principle 4.3 states that the knowledge and consent of the individual are required for the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information, except where inappropriate.

In making her findings, the Assistant Commissioner deliberated as follows:

  • The Office established that it was not the company's usual practice to record any calls and could find no evidence that the conversation in question had been recorded or disclosed.
  • Thus, the Assistant Commissioner found that the company had not contravened Principle 4.3.

She thus concluded that the complaints were not well-founded.