It was a very pleasant surprise when after a long day of work back in September I received contact from Yasmin Nissim, a recent masters graduate in Legal Studies now working at Carleton University’s FOI and privacy office. Yasmin sent me a copy of her master’s thesis, Negotiating the Balance: Reconciling Individual Privacy and Public Interest When Addressing At-Risk Individuals, Campus Violence and Ontario Privacy Legislation. Here’s her abstract:
The recent application of Ontario’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) to the university sector has raised new issues between the habitually conflicting perspectives of individual privacy and the public interest. This study attempts to reconcile these opposing sides with the goal of illustrating that, under the new privacy regime, Ontario Universities can achieve a balance between these interests. Using the massacre that took place at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in April of 2007 as a case study and a media analysis of the resulting moral panic that followed, this thesis discusses the negative consequences of allowing privacy legislation to go misunderstood and misapplied when dealing with at-risk students. Ontario Universities have the opportunity to clarify their new privacy landscape and institute a framework that would protect the safety and security of the general public by identifying at-risk students without jeopardizing the individual privacy of those identified.
I finally got a chance to sit down with Yasmin’s thesis and found it very insightful. I also agree with Yasmin’s view that the balance between personal privacy and public security that is currently struck under FIPPA is a proper one that should not be upset in reaction to crises like Virginia Tech.
Yasmin has graciously agreed to allow me to share to her thesis here. If you use it in your own work please include an appropriate citation.