Reporter identified in response to access request

A journalist complained that his name had been improperly released in a response to a request made under the Access to Information Act (ATIA). The name of the journalist appeared in an e-mail message prepared by a Privy Council Office employee.

The e-mail came to light after another reporter requested access to all e-mails and communications sent or received by the director of communications in the Prime Minister’s Office.

The response to that request included an e-mail from an employee of the Privy Council Office (PCO) to 19 government officials in both the PCO and the Prime Minister’s Office.

The e-mail was written after a multi-department conference call during which an official with Public Safety Canada discussed the pending release of information about a sensitive issue in response to an ATI request. In the e-mail, the PCO official discussed the possibility of another article being written by the complainant about a sensitive issue that he had previously reported on. Other reporters’ names were also mentioned in the e-mail, primarily concerning stories that had already appeared in print. While their names were blacked out, the complainant’s name had been overlooked and released in error.

The Privy Council Office subsequently apologized to the complainant.

As the complainant’s name was released to the other reporter in response to an ATI request, the OPC concluded that his privacy rights had been violated. The complaint was well-founded.

A related complaint alleged that the PCO official disclosed that the journalist had filed an ATI request to Public Safety Canada during the multi-department conference call.

However, our investigation confirmed that the ATI requestor’s identity was never disclosed outside of the ATIP office of Public Safety Canada.

The PCO official stated he had simply made an assumption about who had made the request based on the fact that the journalist had written a number of articles on the subject.

The Assistant Commissioner was satisfied that the journalist’s identity as the person making the access request was not under the control of PCO. This complaint was not well-founded.

A third complaint from the same journalist against Public Safety Canada that it had disclosed his name as an ATI requester was also not well-founded. That complaint was closed in the previous reporting year.

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