File a privacy complaint about a federal institution
Learn how to file a complaint about how a federal institution mishandled your personal information.
The Privacy Act sets out the rules for how federal government institutions collect, use or disclose your personal information. It also gives you the right to see the information held about you, with a few exceptions, and to request corrections.
If you think an institution covered by this Act is not living up to its legal responsibilities, you have the right to file a formal complaint.
To file a privacy complaint
- Check whether the Privacy Act applies
- Give the institution a chance to address your concern
- Learn about the complaint process
- Read the complaint form’s privacy statement
- Access the privacy complaint form
1. Check whether the Privacy Act applies
The Privacy Act only applies to federal government institutions listed in the Act’s Schedule of government institutions, and to federal Crown Corporations or subsidiaries. It applies to all personal information that the federal government collects, uses and discloses about individuals, including federal employees.
Please note that the Privacy Act does not apply to political parties and political representatives.
- Find the right organization to contact about your privacy issue
- Summary of privacy laws in Canada
- Privacy Act
- The federal government and your personal information
2. Give the institution a chance to address your concern
We encourage you to try to resolve the concern directly with the institution before filing a complaint. Many issues can be quickly and effectively addressed this way.
You may wish to get help from the institution’s Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Coordinator.
- List of Access to Information and Privacy Coordinators by institution
- Tips for raising your privacy concern with a federal government institution
3. Learn about the complaint process
There is no charge for filing a complaint with our office. You also don’t need to hire a lawyer to help you. For information on filing a complaint:
- read what to expect during a complaint investigation under the Privacy Act
- call our office at 1-800-282-1376 (toll-free)
If you decide not to make a formal complaint, you still have the option to report your privacy concern to the OPC by:
- calling our office at 1-800-282-1376 (toll-free)
- filling out the online form to share a privacy comment or concern with the OPC
4. Read the complaint form’s privacy statement
When you fill out a complaint form, you are providing personal information. Please take a few moments to read our privacy statement before completing the form.
The following sections explain how we handle your personal information.
Why and how your information is collected
The information provided in the complaint form is collected to process your complaint. In order to investigate your complaint, we may also collect personal information about you from other parties to the complaint, including the organization your complaint is against. The information is collected under the authority of the Privacy Act.
How your information is used
Your personal information is used to respond to, and investigate, your complaint. The information will be provided only to members of our staff who need it for this purpose.
Information about your complaint may also be used in:
- statistics used for reporting and managing our privacy compliance and promotion programs
- reports to Parliament, for example, annual reports with case summaries of investigations (with personal identifiers redacted)
- findings from investigations that are published on our website (with personal identifiers redacted)
- conducting audits and identifying and addressing general privacy issues
- quality control to ensure consistency in investigations
- training materials for investigators
- research and litigation
If you do not provide all the information required on the complaint form, we will not be able to process your complaint.
When your personal information is disclosed
The personal information you provide on our complaint form is protected by the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.
Please note that your name and the details of your complaint will be shared with the institution that is the subject of the complaint, except in extraordinary cases.
We don’t otherwise disclose your information, except in limited situations described in subsection 8(2) of the Privacy Act. In such a case, we will only disclose the required information and will inform you if possible.
Accessing or correcting your information
You have the right to request access to your personal information held by the OPC and also to request corrections to it if you believe that the information is erroneous or incomplete.
Where your information is stored
The information gathered in processing complaints is stored electronically on OPC servers, or on OPC premises in approved secure physical storage.
How your information is protected
We are committed to protecting the privacy of individuals. All personal information you provide on the complaint form, whether through our secure website or by mail, is protected under the Privacy Act.
Please note that all ways of communicating involve some risk that information may be misdirected or intercepted and manipulated. To protect personal information, we take security measures as described in the Policy on Government Security.
How long your information is kept
Information provided to file a complaint about time delays under the Privacy Act is kept for 2 years after a file is completed (including any court action). It is then destroyed.
Information provided to file a complaint about a denial of access under the Privacy Act is kept for 5 years after a file is completed (including any court action). It is then destroyed.
Information provided to file all other types of complaints under the Privacy Act is kept for 5 years after a file is completed. It’s then destroyed.
Information provided for complaints that were not accepted for investigation is kept for 3 years after the file is completed. It’s then destroyed.
If you have questions about this privacy statement
You may send questions about privacy issues to our Chief Privacy Officer, who is also the Director of our Access to Information and Privacy Unit.
Toll-free line: 1-800-282-1376
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
c/o Chief Privacy Officer
30 Victoria Street
Gatineau, QC K1A 1H3
Please also read
- Our terms and conditions of use for our website privacy statement
You also have the right to file a complaint with the Ad Hoc Privacy Commissioner regarding the OPC’s handling of your personal information.
5. Access the privacy complaint form
Please choose one of these ways to file your complaint about a federal institution under the Privacy Act.
File a complaint online
File a complaint by mail
- Download and complete either one of these forms:
- Type your information on the form and then print it
- Mail your complaint to the address on the form.
We are committed to ensuring that clients with disabilities can equally access all our public services. If you need help filing a complaint:
If you’re filing a complaint for someone else, you will need written approval from that person:
If you are not ready to file a complaint, but still have a question or concern:
Report a problem or mistake on this page
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