Regular readers of P&P might recall my concerns about provincial government political staffers, ministers and senior bureaucrats circumventing the freedom of information legislation by
utilizing instant messaging, particularly the secretive PIN function offered by Blackberry.
Instant messages are the equivalent of telephone conversations.
In recent investigations, British Columbia’s and Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioners found that government officials were not properly documenting and preserving electronic or verbal exchanges of information.
Rubbish some said. In this province those PIN communications are not archived. They can not be requested because they do not exist!
Well today the Country's Information Commissioner released a report on her concerns about the duty to report.
She says PIN communication presents a real risk that information that should be accessible by requesters is being irremediably deleted or lost.
She also stated that "No valid operational requirement was provided to me to justify this risk."
She found the following:
The current use of instant messaging, without any technical safeguard, presents an unacceptable risk that government information in an institution or ministerial office will be permanently deleted with no means of being recovered or retrieved.
Proposed or existing TBS policies, and training in institutions and ministerial offices do not adequately protect the right of access to information sent or received by instant message.
The enabling of instant messaging in the absence of any technical safeguard undermines the right to an effective, independent review of complaints about institutions’ handling of access to information requests by our office.
TBS’s Implementation Report No. 115: Access to Records in a Minister’s Office—Prime Minister’s Agenda case is inconsistent with the right of access and the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Prime Minister’s agenda case, to the extent that itinstructs institutions to satisfy unnecessary criteria prior to tasking ministerial offices for records that could fall within the scope of an access request.
The quasi-constitutional right of access to information outweighs the supposed operational requirements for enabling instant messaging identified in the course of our investigation.
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