Personal information and privacy rules

What personal information can be collected, used, released, stored, secured and destroyed in Ontario.

What is collected

Public-sector organizations collect personal information about individuals in the course of regular business (e.g. the address on your driver’s licence).

These organizations must follow rules about how they collect, use, release, store, secure and destroy that information.

You have the right to request corrections to information, if you believe it is inaccurate.

Personal health information

Personal health information is protected under the Personal Health Information Protection Act.

This law applies to:

  • public-sector organizations (e.g. hospitals)
  • private businesses (e.g., pharmacies, long-term care homes)
  • health care professionals (e.g. doctors)

Sharing health card information

Only certain people can or should ask you to produce a health card:

  • health care providers in Ontario (e.g. doctor’s offices, walk-in clinics, hospitals)
  • schools who need to keep a child’s health information on-hand, for medical reasons

If you use your health card as identification, those you show it to should not record or copy the information on it.

More about protecting personal health information

Correct personal information

To request a change or update to personal information in government records:

  • download and complete an Access or Correction Request form
  • mail or hand-deliver the request to the designated Freedom of Information (FOI) coordinator in the organization overseeing the information you want changed

Fee

$5

Contact the coordinator, with any questions you have.

View a full list of FOI coordinators

Privacy (private sector organizations)

When you deal with private sector organizations for anything other than personal health information, your privacy may be protected under the federal government’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

You can find out more about the protections in place through The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Privacy (non-profits/charities)

The Ontario government does not regulate the privacy practices of charitable or non-profit organizations.

Some of their activities may be covered by the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

You can find out more through the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Video surveillance

Video surveillance on Ontario government property or on the property of other public-sector organizations (e.g. municipalities, school buses), is:

  • a collection of personal information
  • covered under provincial Freedom of Information laws

The organization must let you know:

  • that the video is being recorded legally
  • the purpose of collecting the video
  • who to contact for more information

Often, this can be done by posting a sign in a prominent place.

Non-government property

Video surveillance on non-government property is not covered by provincial Freedom of Information laws.

Social insurance numbers

The Government of Canada assigns social insurance numbers (called SIN numbers).

The Ontario government has no jurisdiction over SIN numbers. It does use an individual’s SIN number to administer certain programs (e.g., provide an OSAP loan).

It is not illegal for private organizations to request a SIN number, but it is strongly discouraged.

More information on SIN Cards (Service Canada)

Updated: March 20, 2014