This investigation was initiated as a result of a complaint concerning the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations (the Ministry).
The complainant was concerned that certain information from Ontario's land registration database was being sold in bulk to commercial mortgage lenders, for profit. Specifically, the complainant was concerned about the disclosure of information relating to mortgage renewal dates of property owners. She asserted that banks and other lending institutions were using this information to target consumers when their mortgage terms were about to expire, by offering their own mortgage services.
The complainant believed that such a disclosure practice was an invasion of privacy, contrary to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (the Act).
Before proceeding to discuss the issues arising from the investigation, we feel it would be helpful to provide some background information concerning Ontario's land registration system.
The Real Property Registration Branch of the Ministry manages and operates 55 Land Registry Offices throughout Ontario. According to the Ministry, the main function of the Land Registry Offices is to register, store and preserve documents, deeds, mortgages and plans of survey.
The registration of real property is done under either the Land Titles system or the Registry system. Both systems allow registration of notice of interests relating to a specific property in the province. These notices of interests are registered for the purpose of disclosing to third parties a claim or interest with respect to a given property.
The Acts which govern land registration in the province of Ontario are the Registry Act, Land Titles Act, and Land Registration Reform Act. These Acts, as well as the regulations which are prescribed under them, specify the registration requirements, including various forms of documents which may be registered.
The Ministry indicates that initially, all documents registered at the registry offices were created on paper and were later stored on microfilm for security purposes. However, in the early 1980's, the Ministry began an automation process of its land registration records. In 1991, a partnership was undertaken between the Ministry and a private-sector consortium, which formed Teranet Land Information Services Inc. ("Teranet"). The Ministry is a shareholder in Teranet.