Personal email, BBMs subject to FOI, privacy watchdog tells public servants

Toronto – Ontario’s information and privacy commissioner is telling government and public sector staff that their personal email and BlackBerry Messenger accounts are subject to freedom of information requests.

Brian Beamish issued a guideline on Tuesday for Ontario’s public institutions to help them comply with access legislation.

He says all public servants should be aware that “records relating to government business are subject to provincial access legislation, even if created, sent or received through instant messaging tools or personal email accounts.”

Beamish is asking Ontario institutions to either strictly control the use of such tools when doing business or plan for compliance by making sure those records are retained.

He says instant messaging includes text messages, BlackBerry Messenger and PIN-to-PIN communications, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts.

Political staffers often use tools such as BlackBerry Messenger to communicate with each other.

“There has been some confusion around these issues, but it is imperative that all public servants, elected officials and political staff understand that information requests for records about public business cannot be evaded by using instant messaging or personal email accounts,” Beamish said in a statement.

The Canadian Press

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