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Canada

Streamline Requests for Personal Information (CA0043)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Canada Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

E-Government, Records Management

IRM Review

IRM Report: Canada End-Term Report 2016-2018, Canada Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Streamline Requests for Personal Information Why do this: Transparency includes providing Canadians with timely access to their own personal information held by government. How will it be done: To make it easier for Canadians to access government information, including their personal information, the Government will create a simple, central website where Canadians can submit requests to any government institution. This will be backed up with a 30-day guarantee for personal information requests: should a request take longer than 30 days to fulfill, it is proposed that the Government will provide a written explanation for the delay to the requester and to the Privacy Commissioner.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

2. Streamline Requests for Personal Information

Commitment Text:

The Government of Canada will make it easier for Canadians to access their own personal information held by government.

Milestones:

2.1. Develop a central website where Canadians can submit personal information requests to any government institution, with first phase of roll-out targeted for 2018.

2.2. Implement a 30-day guarantee for requests for personal information, backed by a commitment to provide a written explanation to the requester and the Privacy Commissioner should a request take longer than 30 days to fulfill.

Responsible institution: Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Supporting institution(s): N/A

Start date: Not specified

End date: Not specified

Editorial Note: The text of the commitment was abridged for formatting reasons. For full commitment text, visit: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/Canada_AP3.pdf.

Context and Objectives

Canadians requesting personal information held by the government are faced with a challenging process, since it can be difficult to determine the appropriate agency to approach, and at the outset of the action plan only a minority of institutions allowed requests to be filed online. This commitment aims to improve this process by developing a centralized website for submitting personal information requests and implementing a 30-day guarantee for responses. The milestones are reasonably specific, though some details about submitting requests through the new centralized website still require clarification. The centralization of the requesting process, along with expediting wait times, could be a significant improvement for requesters. However, conversations with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner illustrated a strong need for better engagement and communication in taking this commitment forward.[Note17: Conversation by phone on 5 October 2017. ]

Completion

There has been limited progress in implementing Milestone 2.1. The government’s self-assessment report states that the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has identified business requirements for the website and completed usability testing for the Access to Information and Privacy Online Pilot site.[Note18: The draft self-assessment is available at: http://open.canada.ca/en/mtsar/draft-consultation-mid-term-self-assessment-third-biennial-plan-open-government-partnership.]

For Milestone 2,2, the self-assessment reports that the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has shared implementation options for the 30-day guarantee for requests for personal information with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) and received feedback. This was confirmed, in a limited sense, by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, though they also expressed confusion regarding the current status of this milestone, and the avenue forward.[Note19: Conversation by phone on 5 October 2017. ] The government’s self-assessment reports substantial progress, but says that the approach still needs to be finalized before implementation can begin. Given that there are approximately 240 institutions subject to the Privacy Act, each of which faces their own unique technical and operational challenges, an assessment of substantial progress would require the government to have at least reached the implementation phase. An assessment of limited progress seems more appropriate for Milestone 2.2.

Significant challenges remain for full implementation of both milestones. As such, this commitment does not appear to be on schedule for completion.

Next Steps

During stakeholder consultations, the Canadian Association of Journalists noted that centralizing and simplifying the system was a positive step.[Note20: Toronto consultation, 15 September 2017.] This sentiment was generally echoed by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.[Note21: Conversation by phone on 5 October 2017. ] However, both the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and the Canadian Association of Journalists noted that the system for responding to personal information requests was substantially under-resourced across the federal government, a systemic problem which will hinder the potential impact of this commitment. Both also expressed a need for more structural reform, including revamping the personal information bank system[Note22: Personal information banks are descriptions of the personal information that a government institution controls, along with information about how the data is collected, used, disclosed, retained and disposed.] as well as the Privacy Act as a whole.

Other stakeholders, including the Centre for Law and Democracy and Fred Vallance-Jones of the University of King's College, proposed that the centralized portal should be extended to receive requests under the Access to Information Act, as well as requests for personal information.[Note23: Halifax consultation, 12 September 2017.] It is worth noting that Mexico’s Infomex website, which has been online since 2008, allows users to not only send requests across the federal executive branch, the Supreme Court and several states and municipalities, but also to appeal agency decisions and consult every request and public response ever processed electronically by the government.[Note24: The Infomex website is available at: https://www.infomex.org.mx/gobiernofederal/home.action.] Although not included in the action plan, Canada’s self-assessment indicates that this is actually being contemplated. The IRM researcher recommends that Canada consider taking this idea forward to create a central system for requests under the Access to Information Act.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

2. Streamline Requests for Personal Information

Commitment Text: The Government of Canada will make it easier for Canadians to access their own personal information held by government.

Milestones:

2.1. Develop a central website where Canadians can submit personal information requests to any government institution, with first phase of roll-out targeted for 2018.

2.2. Implement a 30-day guarantee for requests for personal information, backed by a commitment to provide a written explanation to the requester and the Privacy Commissioner should a request take longer than 30 days to fulfill.

Responsible institution: Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Supporting institution(s): N/A

Start Date: Not specified

End Date: Not specified

Editorial Note: The text of the commitment was abridged for formatting reasons. For full commitment text, visit http://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/Canada_AP3.pdf.

Commitment Aim

This commitment aimed to simplify and expedite the process for filing a request for disclosure of personal information that a government body holds about the requester. It proposed developing a centralised website for submitting requests and implementing a 30-day guarantee for responses. It would require the government to provide a written explanation to the requester and the privacy commissioner if response times ran longer than 30 days.

Status

Midterm: Limited

The midterm assessment identified significant challenges for completion of each milestone. For the centralised website (2.1), the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat had identified business requirements and completed usability testing. However, it had not commenced any form of public piloting of the site.[Note8: This is according to the 2017 midterm self-assessment report, which can be accessed at https://open.canada.ca/en/commitment/mtsar/2016-2018.] For the 30-day guarantee, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat had shared implementation options with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. However, it had not commenced concrete steps toward implementation. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner expressed confusion regarding how to move forward. The midterm assessment judged that this commitment was not on schedule for completion.

End of term: Substantial

The government's end-of-term self-assessment reports that the centralised website is still under development, with rollout planned for fall 2018.[Note9: The self-assessment is available at https://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset/9da9faf5-deb1-48db-8f16-91055d942d65.] The central website will incorporate a functionality for filing both access to information and personal information requests, which was one of the recommendations mentioned in the 2017 midterm assessment. In discussions with the IRM researcher, representatives from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) attributed the delay to time taken for further site improvements after a first round of usability testing. Feedback from the testing had suggested improvements to the tool's interface.

In June 2018, the president of the TBS issued the “Directive on Personal Information Requests and Correction of Personal Information.” As of 1 October 2018, that directive requires institutions to provide a written explanation to the requester when a request for access to personal information takes more than 30 days to fulfil. The body also must give more detail on the reasons for extensions in the institution's annual report to Parliament.[Note10: The directive is available at https://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?id=32590&section=html.] Canada's end-of-term self-assessment states that the TBS encourages institutions to begin implementing this directive earlier than October. However, since the milestone calls for the implementation of the 30-day guarantee within the action plan two-year cycle—and this deadline extends beyond that time—the milestone is coded as having substantial progress.[Note11: The self-assessment is available at https://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset/9da9faf5-deb1-48db-8f16-91055d942d65.]

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Marginal

Canadians requesting personal information held by the government face challenges in determining the appropriate agency to approach, as well as delays in receiving their information. This commitment aimed to improve this process by centralising it and expediting timelines for response. Although the first milestone has the potential to be a major step forward, it was not completed during the action plan.

For the second milestone, the language of the directive could represent important progress by improving the accountability for departments which fail to meet the 30-day timeline. However, its full implementation will not occur until well after the conclusion of the action plan.

As a result, while this commitment has the potential to have a moderately positive impact, its outcomes thus far are assessed as marginal. The coding would have been higher had the commitment been completed.

Carried Forward?

The first milestone of this commitment was carried forward. Canada's fourth action plan includes an expansion of the Access to Information and Privacy Online Request Service to 50 new institutions in each year of the action plan.


Commitments

  1. User-Friendly Open Government

    CA0064, 2018, Capacity Building

  2. Financial Transparency and Accountability

    CA0065, 2018, E-Government

  3. Corporate Transparency

    CA0066, 2018, Beneficial Ownership

  4. Digital Government and Services

    CA0067, 2018, Capacity Building

  5. Open Science

    CA0068, 2018, Capacity Building

  6. Healthy Democracy

    CA0069, 2018, Civic Space

  7. Access to Information

    CA0070, 2018, Capacity Building

  8. Feminist and Inclusive Dialogue

    CA0071, 2018, Capacity Building

  9. Reconciliation and Open Government

    CA0072, 2018, Capacity Building

  10. Open Government Community

    CA0073, 2018, Capacity Building

  11. Enhance Access to Information

    CA0042, 2016, Legislation & Regulation

  12. Streamline Requests for Personal Information

    CA0043, 2016, E-Government

  13. Expand and Improve Open Data

    CA0044, 2016, E-Government

  14. Provide and Preserve Open Information

    CA0045, 2016, E-Government

  15. Define an Approach for Measuring Open Government Performance

    CA0046, 2016, Capacity Building

  16. Develop Open Government Skills Across the Federal Public Service

    CA0047, 2016, Capacity Building

  17. Embed Transparency Requirements in the Federal Service Strategy

    CA0048, 2016, Capacity Building

  18. Enhance Access to Culture & Heritage Collections

    CA0049, 2016, Capacity Building

  19. Enhance Openness of Information on Government Spending and Procurement

    CA0050, 2016, Capacity Building

  20. Increase Transparency of Budget and Other Department of Finance Information

    CA0051, 2016, Capacity Building

  21. Starred commitment Increase Transparency of Grants and Contributions Funding

    CA0052, 2016, Capacity Building

  22. Improve Public Information on Canadian Corporations

    CA0053, 2016, E-Government

  23. Increase the Availability and Usability of Geospatial Data

    CA0054, 2016, Capacity Building

  24. Increase Openness of Federal Science Activities (Open Science)

    CA0055, 2016, Capacity Building

  25. Stimulate Innovation through Canada’s Open Data Exchange (ODX)

    CA0056, 2016, E-Government

  26. Align Open Data Across Canada (Open Data Canada)

    CA0057, 2016, Capacity Building

  27. Implement the Extractives Sector Transparency Measures Act

    CA0058, 2016, Capacity Building

  28. Support Openness and Transparency Initiatives Around the World

    CA0059, 2016, Aid

  29. Engage Civil Society on Open Government

    CA0060, 2016, Public Participation

  30. Enable Open Dialogue and Open Policy Making

    CA0061, 2016, Capacity Building

  31. Promote Open Government Globally

    CA0062, 2016, Capacity Building

  32. Engage Canadians to Improve Key Canada Revenue Agency Services

    CA0063, 2016, Civic Space

  33. Implement Directive on Open Government

    CA0030, 2014, Open Data

  34. Starred commitment Open Data Canada

    CA0031, 2014, Open Data

  35. Canadian Open Data Exchange (ODX)

    CA0032, 2014, Capacity Building

  36. Open Data for Development

    CA0033, 2014, Capacity Building

  37. Open Data Core Commitment

    CA0034, 2014, Open Data

  38. Starred commitment Open Science

    CA0035, 2014, Science & Technology

  39. Starred commitment Mandatory Reporting on Extractives

    CA0036, 2014, Extractive Industries

  40. Open Contracting

    CA0037, 2014, Open Contracting and Procurement

  41. Open Information on Budgets and Expenditures

    CA0038, 2014, Fiscal Transparency

  42. Digital Literacy

    CA0039, 2014, Capacity Building

  43. Open Information Core Commitment

    CA0040, 2014, Right to Information

  44. Consulting Canadians

    CA0041, 2014, Marginalized Communities

  45. Starred commitment International Aid Transparency Initiative: Publish Plan to Make CIDA Activities Available and Accessible

    CA0010, 2012, Aid

  46. International Aid Transparency Initiative: Implement Plan

    CA0011, 2012, Aid

  47. Opening Government of Canada Records: Increase Access to Archived Federal Documents at Library and Archives Canada

    CA0012, 2012, Records Management

  48. Opening Government of Canada Records: Issue New Mandatory Policy on Document Classification

    CA0013, 2012, Records Management

  49. Opening Government of Canada Records: Make Classified Information Available Online

    CA0014, 2012, E-Government

  50. GCDOCS: Deploy Wave One of Electronic Record and Document Management Solution

    CA0015, 2012, E-Government

  51. GCDOCS: Deploy Across Federal Government

    CA0016, 2012, E-Government

  52. GCWEB: Develop Consolidated Web Presence

    CA0017, 2012, E-Government

  53. GCWEB: Implement New Platform

    CA0018, 2012, E-Government

  54. Data.Gc.Ca: Expand Number of Datasets Available

    CA0019, 2012, E-Government

  55. Data.Gc.Ca: Implement Data.Gc.Ca Portal

    CA0020, 2012, E-Government

  56. Data.Gc.Ca: Improve Standardization of Data

    CA0021, 2012, E-Government

  57. Government of Canada Resource Management Data: Publish Resource Management and Performance Data

    CA0022, 2012, E-Government

  58. Government of Canada Resource Management Data: Enhance Search and Data Tools

    CA0023, 2012, E-Government

  59. Consulting Canadians: Develop New Platform for Consultation

    CA0024, 2012, E-Government

  60. Consulting Canadians: Develop Standard Approach to Use of Social Media

    CA0025, 2012, E-Government

  61. Consulting Canadians: Pilot a Crowdsourcing Initiative

    CA0026, 2012, E-Government

  62. Consulting Canadians: Enable Use of Common Online Tools

    CA0027, 2012, E-Government

  63. Open Regulation: Federal Regulators to Post Forward Regulatory Plans

    CA0028, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  64. Open Regulation: Simplify Engagement Activities

    CA0029, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  65. Open Government Directive: Issue Directive on Open Government

    CA0001, 2012, E-Government

  66. Open Government Directive: Implement Directive on Open Government

    CA0002, 2012, E-Government

  67. Starred commitment Open Government Licence: Issue Open Government Licence

    CA0003, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  68. Starred commitment Open Government Licence: Adopt Open Government Licence

    CA0004, 2012, Records Management

  69. Modernising Administration of Access to Information: Pilot of Online Request and Payment Service

    CA0005, 2012, Fiscal Transparency

  70. Modernising Administration of Access to Information: Implement ATI Solution

    CA0006, 2012, Fiscal Transparency

  71. Modernising Administration of Access to Information: Make Completed ATI Request Summaries Searchable

    CA0007, 2012, Right to Information

  72. Virtual Library: Begin Design of Virtual Library

    CA0008, 2012, E-Government

  73. Virtual Library: Launch Virtual Library

    CA0009, 2012, E-Government