Privacy Commissioner Urges People To Ask For Information

You have the right to ask for information from government.

That's the message from Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner on a visit to Windsor.

Brian Beamish hosted 2 sessions at Vanier Hall at the University of Windsor, many of those attending were municipal officials.

He addressed both Freedom Of Information (FOI) requests and where privacy is needed.

Beamish says government officials are fairly well versed, but need clarification of their roles and responsibilities and that was the focus of the meeting today.

He says government officials should be cautious when using their personal email, Facebook or other social media accounts

"Are those emails sent from a private account subject to FOI access?" asked Beamish, "The short answer is yes they are.  We look not at the account the email was sent from or the form it was sent from, we look at the subject matter"

Beamish says in the case of social media being used by municipal or provincial officials, privacy of personal information must be protected.

He says it's an issue they will look into and even if the intention was for a good purpose, carelessness could lead to personal information being disclosed and his office can require the government institution to fix it.

Beamish says many people are not aware of their right to access to government information.

He says when filing a Freedom of Information request, the more specific you are the better.

He says if the response is not acceptable, people can appeal to the commissioners office.