TORONTO, ON (June 7, 2016) – Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, Brian Beamish, is calling on the leaders of all public institutions to educate staff and enact policies to strictly control the use of personal email and messaging tools, such as BlackBerry Messenger, to conduct business. All public servants should be aware that records relating to government business are subject to provincial access legislation, even if they are created, sent or received through instant messaging tools or personal email accounts.

The use of these tools and accounts can create a number of challenges for institutions in meeting their obligations under Ontario’s access and privacy laws. To avoid these issues, Beamish is asking all Ontario institutions to strictly control the use of personal email or instant messaging when doing business, and implement clear policies to help public servants meet their legal obligations. If it is necessary to use these tools, institutions must plan for compliance by conducting thorough risk assessments and implementing appropriate administrative and technical measures to ensure that records are saved.

A new guide to assist Ontario’s public institutions, Instant Messaging and Personal Email Accounts: Meeting Your Access and Privacy Obligations, is now available.

“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.”
~ Brian Beamish, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario