Telecommunications company accused of disclosing unpublished telephone number

PIPEDA Case Summary #2002-75

[Principle 4.3, Schedule1]


An individual complained that a telecommunications company had disclosed her unpublished telephone number without her knowledge or consent.

Summary of Investigation

The complainant subscribes to a call blocking service that permanently blocks her name and telephone number from appearing on a telephone call display screen. She alleged that she accidentally dialed her own telephone number and was able to see her name and number on her telephone's screen. The complainant further alleged that several people she called told her that they could see her name and number on their screens. However, she was unwilling to provide the Office with the contact information for witnesses who might substantiate her version of events. Therefore, the investigation could only address the one incident where the complainant dialed her own number.

The telecommunications company confirmed that the complainant is a subscriber to the call blocking service and stated that the service has been working without interruption since she first received it. The call blocking service functions with respect to calls placed on one telephone line to another, outside line. The party receiving the call will see "private name, private number" on their screen.

The company does not dispute that the complainant would have seen her telephone number as the number one dials always appears on the display screen. The company indicates that it may be possible that she also saw her name, as call blocking is not designed to work for calls placed and received on the same line.

The complainant also alleged that on two occasions, the telecommunications company disclosed her unlisted telephone number following a residential move. These events occurred prior to the implementation of the Act and therefore the Office does not have the jurisdiction to investigate. Nevertheless, the telecommunications company took action to address the complainant's concerns.

Commissioner's Findings

Issued October 10, 2002

Jurisdiction: As of January 1, 2001, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act applies to federal works, undertakings, or businesses. The Commissioner had jurisdiction in this case because telecommunications companies are federal works, undertakings, or businesses as defined in the Act.

Application: Principle 4.3, Schedule 1, states that the knowledge and consent of the individual are required for the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information except where appropriate.

The Commissioner determined that the viewing of one's own name and number on a telephone display screen when dialing the number oneself does not constitute a disclosure of one's personal information, for the purposes of Principle 4.3. In the absence of evidence that other parties called by the complainant could see her name and number, the Commissioner has no reason to dispute the company's records that the call blocking service was functioning properly.

The Commissioner concluded that the complaint was not well-founded.

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