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Manitoba Division of Driver and Vehicle Licencing follows Ombudsman's office recommendations

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Feb 22, 2000

The Manitoba Ombudsman's Office has completed an investigation into security arrangements in relation to the transfer of personal information, held by the Division of Driver and Vehicle Licencing (DDVL), to Elections Canada. The Office initiated the investigation in March 1999 to determine whether the personal information had been protected in the manner required by s.41 of The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). DDVL is a division of the Department of Highways and Government Services.

Barry Tuckett, the Manitoba Ombudsman, found that the disappearance of the computer tape was solely the responsibility of Elections Canada. He also found that personal information collected and disclosed by DDVL has not been protected in the manner required under the legislation.

The investigation was launched on the Ombudsman's own initiative after the Office received information that a large amount of personal information had vanished. The investigation was unable to determine whether the information had been inadvertently lost or deliberately stolen.

The Ombudsman made ten recommendations in his report dated October 27, 1999. Manitoba Highways and Government Services substantively accepted the recommendations in its response of December 6 1999. The Department agreed to:

  • conduct a comprehensive audit of its security arrangements for personal information;
  • develop reasonable criteria for public notification regarding breaches of security;
  • notify Manitoba drivers of the uses and disclosures of their personal information; and
  • follow the principle of transparency by providing information to the public, including the seeking of active and informed consent for the disclosure of personal information in any future transfers of such information to Elections Canada.

The Ombudsman observed that there is a positive aspect to the incident in that the publicity generated will help alert other public bodies under FIPPA to the importance of reviewing their security arrangements for personal information.

Perhaps more importantly, the incident serves as a reminder to government departments and agencies that the legislation gives people the right to control their own information, subject to a limited number of exceptions and circumstances.

"When government departments and agencies seek to collect, use or disclose personal information, they should create open and transparent information environments that enable the public to make informed decisions," said the Ombudsman. "When public notification and informed consent become standard operating practices, public confidence in government administration will be enhanced."

The Ombudsman's Office will follow up with Manitoba Highways and Government Services on the implementation of the recommendations to review the Department's progress.