Case Report – Fed Ct. considers “identifiability” question

The OPC blog recently noted a case from February where the Federal Court held that the disclosure of the data about the province from which adverse drug reactions were reported to Health Canada was personal information.

The proceeding followed an access request made by the CBC.  Health Canada had given the CBC some information from its adverse drug reactions database but denied access to the “province” field.  The CBC brought a court application, and the OPC intervened in support of Health Canada’s decision.  

In disposing of the matter, the Federal Court accepted a “serious possibility” test proposed by the OPC:

Information will be about an identifiable individual where there is a serious possibility that an individual could be identified through the use of that information, alone or in combination with other available information.

It accepted that disclosure of the province field would meet this test based on the other information disclosed by Health Canada (which included a subject’s height, weight, age and reaction description among other data) and other publicly available information.

This is a big issue.  Questions:  Was the outcome implicitly driven by the sensitivity of hte information?  Should that be part of the test?

Gordon v. Canada (Health), 2008 FC 258 (CanLII).

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