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FOIP follies

The University of Calgary has been found to be in breach of an employee’s privacy. In the case details (SEE: http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200208/12942.html) an employee had called the university’s campus security with respect to an incident regarding an employee, the employee’s spouse, and other staff and the employee’s supervisor. The employee and spouse were removed from the premises. Some time later, the supervisor asked for the campus security’s report on the incident and received it from campus security. Apparently the report contained the former employee’s name and home address. The report also contained the information about the former employee’s spouse including name, birth date, home address, colour and make of vehicle, and licence plate number.

The former employee was quite concerned about this information getting into the hands of the former supervisor. Given that the campus cops had to be called, I can only assume that there was some sort of fairly heated disagreement going on. In fact, in the complaint, the employee stated “: The University has shown no regard for my safety. :”

In investigating the case, the privacy commissioner determined that yes, the release of this information was against the Freedom of Information and Privacy act, and should not have been done. To compensate the university is required to establish policies to ensure this does not happen again.

I am not exactly sure how this is going to be any compensation to the person whose information was already released. While there is little that can actually be done for the employee concerned, I would expect that a formal, written apology be required.

On the other hand, FOIP can also be a serious hassle. Athabasca University, for instance, is restricted from releasing student e-mail addresses to AUSU. This means that though AUSU has our names and postal addresses, and even though the majority of AUSU’s communication is done electronically, they have no access to our e-mail addresses unless we specifically provide it to them or tell AU that it can be provided to the AUSU.

As a result, many students are unaware that the AUSU or The Voice even exists.

The Minister of National Defence Needs You!

The Canadian Department of Defence has announced that they are holding online consultations with Canadians to determine plans for the Department of Defence (SEE: http://www.dnd.ca/eng/archive/2002/aug02/06CCDU_n_e.htm). Interested Canadians are encouraged to go to this site (SEE: http://www.forces.gc.ca/menu/consult/update/consult_questions_e.asp?userID= and answer the ten questions provided to help the government determine the future role of Canada’s Defence forces.

Sadly, the questions do not show much in the way of original thinking from the Defence Department, and are mostly directed to providing support to the idea that the Defence Department needs more money. These questions can even be quite leading, like the third question, which reads, “Do you believe that the Canadian Forces have enough personnel for operations at home and abroad? Should we try to maintain (or even increase) the number of Canadian Forces personnel, even if this means decreasing funding for sophisticated new equipment?” Notice that the option of reducing the number of personnel is not even considered, and the suggestion is that even maintaining the current number means decreasing funding for new equipment.

Still, as regular Canadians, there is rarely an open opportunity to easily add your thoughts to the direction of the Defence Department. We should take advantage of this one while it lasts.

Crime Pays in New Brunswick
The New Brunswick government just received a cheque for approximately $30,000.00 from the RCMP (SEE: http://www.gnb.ca/cnb/news/ps/2002e0788ps.htm). It seems a Mr. Byers of Moncton was fraudulently selling Play Station 2 machines over the Internet, machines that he did not have. Following an investigation and seizure of cash and assets, over $400,000 was recovered. Most of this went to victim restitution, but $30,000 of it was left over. (Most likely from some unfortunate people who are still waiting for their Play Station consoles that the RCMP was unable to find)

The strange part is that instead of using the leftover money to help defray the cost of the RCMP investigation – a cost that is paid by all taxpayers – the money instead went to the Province of New Brunswick, where the crime was committed. While I am happy for those in New Brunswick who have now benefited from this crime, I just wish that Mr. Byers had committed his crime here in Alberta instead.

A native Calgarian, Karl is perpetually nearing the completion of his Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Information Studies. He also works for the Computer Sciences Virtual Helpdesk for Athabasca University and plans to eventually go on to tutor and obtain his Master’s Degree.