Identity of information requester revealed

A Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT) employee complained the institution improperly disclosed his personal information to co-workers. The co-workers then disclosed it to the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

In addition to being a DFAIT employee, the complainant’s union work had been criticized by the local’s executive and some members. The complainant submitted Privacy Act requests seeking all personal information held by five co-workers, who were also his fellow union members and the ones who had criticized him.

When DFAIT received his requests, the ATIP unit asked the co-workers to provide all personal information they held about the complainant. ATIP staff alerted the co-workers of the sensitivity of the request and informed them of the restriction for further dissemination of that information on a “need-to-know” basis within the institution.

The first issue our Office reviewed was the complainant’s concern about being identified as the requester. We concluded this complaint was not well-founded. In order to obtain the information held by the co-workers, the ATIP unit needed to disclose his identity.

As for the complainant’s concern about the co-workers notifying the union that he had submitted Privacy Act requests, our investigation confirmed that four of the five had informed the Public Service Alliance of Canada of his actions. The co-workers believed that the complainant had submitted his requests in an effort to harass them. All four confirmed they had read the ATIP unit’s reminder about the sensitivity of his request, but considered the matter union business, not departmental business.

While the disclosure of the complainant’s identity to his co-workers was not well-founded, the fact that four co-workers notified the union that he had submitted Privacy Act requests violated his privacy rights.

The complaint was well-founded.

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