beLikeStacey-01
IAPP-GDPR Web Banners-300x250-FINAL
IAPP_StudyGuideAD

By Terry McQuay, CIPP, CIPP/C

Student Privacy Comes into Question

The recent apparent suicide death of a Canadian university student in Ontario has fuelled the debate concerning challenges universities face in providing health services to students while also protecting students' privacy rights.

The student's parents were upset that the university had only informed them that their daughter had been seeing a campus doctor and counsellor, and that she had been taking anti-depressants, after she went missing.

University officials stated they had followed procedures and that they could not inform the student's parents about her mental health because of the province's privacy laws.
A number of provincial Privacy Commissioners contributed to this debate by:

  • stating that universities need to have a clearer understanding of what privacy laws allow; and
  • cautioning that too often privacy laws are the automatic target of blame when controversy arises.

Ontario's Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian stated that:

  • determining whether a situation requires disclosure is a judgment call, though the law offers protection as long as the decision maker acted in good faith; and
  • university officials have to take the time to make the difficult decision and should not rely on privacy laws as the default reason for not disclosing personal information.

Saskatchewan's Privacy Commissioner, Gary Dickson:

  • agreed there is a significant need for more education about the flexibility that is built into privacy laws; and
  • stated that there must be people with appropriate training and judgment who can make the discretionary decision.

Alberta's Privacy Commissioner, Frank Work:

  •     stated that in almost every privacy law, the standard is always reasonableness, not perfection.

In letters to the editors of the National Post, Globe and Mail and Toronto Star, Ann Cavoukian stated that:

  • privacy is not an absolute right and must be balanced against an individual's physical safety;
  • under Ontario's health privacy law, health care providers, such as counsellors, are permitted to disclose health information where necessary to eliminate or reduce a significant risk of serious bodily harm, which:

          o  includes disclosure to a physician or parent if there are reasonable grounds to believe it is necessary to do so to reduce the risk of suicide.

  • notification cannot be on a routine basis as students need to know that their privacy will be strongly protected:

          o disclosure can only be contemplated in extreme life-threatening situations.

  • arriving at the decision to notify can be extremely difficult, requiring very sound judgment:

          o great care must be exercised in notifying close contacts;
          o the problem lies with the default of non-disclosure and inaction.

Dr. Cavoukian noted that her office discusses this subject matter in a fact sheet, available on the OPC's Web site, titled "Disclosure of Information Permitted in Emergency or other Urgent Circumstances."

Terry McQuay, CIPP, CIPP/C, is the Founder of Nymity, which offers Web-based privacy support to help organizations control their privacy risks. Learn more at www.nymity.com.


0 Comments

If you want to comment on this post, you need to login.

Related

Board of Directors

See the esteemed group of leaders shaping the future of the IAPP.

Contact Us

Need someone to talk to? We’re here for you.

IAPP Staff

Looking for someone specific? Visit the staff directory.

Learn more about the IAPP»

Daily Dashboard

The day’s top stories from around the world

Privacy Perspectives

Where the real conversations in privacy happen

The Privacy Advisor

Original reporting and feature articles on the latest privacy developments

Privacy Tracker

Alerts and legal analysis of legislative trends

Privacy Tech

Exploring the technology of privacy

Canada Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top Canadian privacy news

Europe Data Protection Digest

A roundup of the top European data protection news

Asia-Pacific Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from the Asia-Pacific region

Latin America Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from Latin America

IAPP Westin Research Center

Original works. Groundbreaking research. Emerging scholars.

Get more News »

Find a KnowledgeNet Chapter Near You

Network and talk privacy at IAPP KnowledgeNet meetings, taking place worldwide.

Women Leading Privacy

Events, volunteer opportunities and more designed to help you give and get career support and expand your network.

IAPP Job Board

Looking for a new challenge, or need to hire your next privacy pro? The IAPP Job Board is the answer.

Join the Privacy List

Have ideas? Need advice? Subscribe to the Privacy List. It’s crowdsourcing, with an exceptional crowd.

Find more ways to Connect »

Find a Privacy Training Class

Two-day privacy training classes are held around the world. See the complete schedule now.

Online Privacy Training

Build your knowledge. The privacy know-how you need is just a click away.

The Training Post—Can’t-Miss Training Updates

Subscribe now to get the latest alerts on training opportunities around the world.

New Web Conferences Added!

See our list of upcoming web conferences. Just log on, listen in and learn!

Train Your Staff

Get your team up to speed on privacy by bringing IAPP training to your organization.

Learn more »

CIPP Certification

The global standard for the go-to person for privacy laws, regulations and frameworks

CIPM Certification

The first and only privacy certification for professionals who manage day-to-day operations

CIPT Certification

The industry benchmark for IT professionals worldwide to validate their knowledge of privacy requirements

Certify Your Staff

Find out how you can bring the world’s only globally recognized privacy certification to a group in your organization.

Learn more about IAPP certification »

Get Close-up

Looking for tools and info on a hot topic? Our close-up pages organize it for you in one easy-to-find place.

Where's Your DPA?

Our interactive DPA locator helps you find data protection authorities and summary of law by country.

IAPP Westin Research Center

See the latest original research from the IAPP Westin fellows.

Looking for Certification Study Resources?

Find out what you need to prepare for your exams

More Resources »

GDPR Comprehensive: Spots Going Fast

With the top minds in the field leading this exceptional program, it's no wonder it's filling quickly. Register now to secure your spot.

Be Part of Something Big: Join the Summit

Registration is open for the Global Privacy Summit 2016. Discounted early bird rates available for a short time, register today!

Data Protection Intensive Returns to London

Registration is now open for the IAPP Europe Data Protection Intensive in London. Check out the program!

P.S.R. Call for Speakers Open!

P.S.R. is THE privacy + cloud security event of the year, and you can take a leading role. Propose a session for this year's program.

Sponsor an Event

Increase visibility for your organization—check out sponsorship opportunities today.

Exhibit at an Event

Put your brand in front of the largest gatherings of privacy pros in the world. Learn more.

More Conferences »

Become a Member

Start taking advantage of the many IAPP member benefits today

Corporate Members

See our list of high-profile corporate members—and find out why you should become one, too

Renew Your Membership

Don’t miss out for a minute—continue accessing your benefits

Join the IAPP»