Protecting personal information

Q: I am applying for a gym membership at a facility that is run by the town in which I live. I have to fill out a form and give a lot of information about myself. Is that information protected?

A: There is provincial protection of privacy legislation across Canada, and personal information is protected from being misused.

A government body or local authority such as a municipality is not supposed to collect personal information unless that information is for a purpose that relates to an existing or proposed program of that government body or local authority.

Once the information is collected, it is not to be used for any other purpose. It is not to be disclosed except as authorized by law or as consented to by that individual.

Personal information includes race, creed, religion, color, sex, sexual orientation, family status or marital status, disability, age, nationality, ancestry or place of origin of an individual. It also relates to criminal or employment history or one’s finances.

Health information is also included in personal information along with any identifying number, symbol or other particular numbers assigned to an individual.

A home or business address, phone numbers, fingerprints or blood type would be regarded as protected personal information. In some situations, the personal opinions or views of an individual can be protected.

Depending on where you work, the details of your salary can be open to public scrutiny. Employees of muni-cipalities often have their salaries open to the public along with travel expenses and details of discretionary benefits granted to an individual by a municipality.

Academic ranks or departmental designations of members of faculty are usually public in addition to degrees, certificates or diplomas from institutions of higher learning.

That protection of privacy legislation does not apply to information that is already public record. If your name, address and phone number appear in the phone directory with your consent, it is not information over which you should expect protection.

Each province has its own access to information and privacy office, and websites to provide helpful information to assist you in determining whether information you are giving is in fact personal and protected.

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