Company accused of withholding telephone records

PIPEDA Case Summary #2002-55

[Principle 4.9, Schedule 1]

Complaint

An individual complained that a telecommunications company had refused him access to his personal information in the form of telephone records.

Summary of Investigation

The complainant had requested access to all information related to his telephone service account with the company. The company responded with a letter accompanied by seven pages of information. In the letter, the company referred to, but did not provide a copy of, a record of a certain telephone repair. In his complaint to the Commissioner's Office, the complainant cited the company's failure to have included a copy of this record. He also alleged that the company's response had omitted other information to which he was entitled.

In fact, the company had on file 105 additional pages of information relating to the complainant's telephone account. On being advised by the Commissioner's Office that these pages should have been included in the response to the access request, the company agreed to process and release the additional information, but insisted that certain deletions would be made in consideration of sections 2(1), 9(1), and 9(3)(a) of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

The company sent the complainant a further 105 pages of information, with deletions made on the following three grounds:

  1. some items, such as business telephone and fax numbers and e-mail addresses, were not deemed to be the complainant's personal information as defined in section 2(1);
  2. some items, such as employees' home telephone numbers, were deemed to be third-party personal information, severable under section 9(1); and
  3. one sentence was deemed to be protected by solicitor-client privilege in accordance with section 9(3).

Commissioner's Findings

Issued July 2, 2002

Jurisdiction: As of January 1, 2001, the Act applies to any federal work, undertaking, or business. The Commissioner had jurisdiction in this case because telecommunications companies are federal works, undertakings, or businesses as defined in the Act.

Application: Principle 4.9, Schedule 1, states that upon request an individual must be informed of the existence, use, and disclosure of his or her personal information and given access to that information; and that the individual must be able to challenge the accuracy and completeness of the information and have it amended as appropriate.

The Commissioner determined that the company had initially failed to provide access to a considerable amount of personal information relevant to the complainant's request. The Commissioner found that the company had been clearly in contravention of Principle 4.9.

Nevertheless, he was satisfied, on consideration of the items severed from the 105 additional pages of information, that those items had been duly severable under sections 2(1), 9(1), and 9(3)(a) and that the company had thus eventually provided the complainant with all the information to which he was entitled.

The Commissioner concluded that the complaint was well-founded and resolved.

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