Balancing Privacy with Safety and Security

Nov 26 2018

In Ontario, your privacy rights are protected by rules limiting the collection, use and sharing of your personal information. But what happens when law enforcement is involved? Do the same rules apply?

The short answer is yes. In general, under Ontario’s access and privacy laws, institutions should only disclose personal information to police when required to do so by law, such as in response to a court order.

There are some exceptions to this rule. In cases where the health or safety of individuals hangs in the balance or information is available that could assist an investigation, institutions can disclose personal information without a court order.

Deciding to disclose in these situations requires carefully assessing many factors. To assist institutions, our office recently published a fact sheet about disclosure of personal information to law enforcement.

This fact sheet explains key situations when an institution can disclose personal information to a law enforcement agency. It also outlines the steps an institution should take in responding to these requests, best practices for documenting them, and how to provide greater transparency to the public about these types of disclosures.

We are here to help. Contact us if you have questions about your institution’s duties and obligations when it comes to disclosing personal information to law enforcement. As always, if you believe an institution has improperly disclosed your personal information, you have a right to file a privacy complaint with our office.