Opinions and Views about Opinions and Views

May 1, 2019 - Melanie Coyle, Analyst

When it comes to figuring out whether opinions and views qualify as personal information under The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) or The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (LA FOIP), it can get confusing!!

Subsections 24(1)(f) of FOIP/23(1)(f) of LA FOIP indicate that “the personal opinions or views of the individual except where they are about another individual” qualifies as personal information.

Subsections 24(1)(h) of FOIP/23(1)(h) of LA FOIP indicate that “the views or opinions of another individual with respect to the individual” qualifies as personal information.

Finally, subsections 24(2)(c) of FOIP/23(2)(b) of LA FOIP indicate that the personal opinions or views of an individual employed by a public body given in the course of employment, other than personal opinions or views with respect to another individual DOES NOT qualify as personal information.

So what is the FOIP universe trying to tell us about opinions and views?

First thing to know is that subsections 24(1)(f) of FOIP/23(1)(f) indicate that personal opinions or views of an individual are personal information.  The key is that the opinion or view has to be personal – in other words information that reveals something about the individual.

In contrast, opinions or views that are expressed in a professional context would be considered work product.    Work product which is information generated by or otherwise associated with an individual in the normal course of performing professional or employment responsibilities, whether in a public or private setting. Work product is not considered personal information.  This is supported by subsections 24(2)(c) of FOIP/23(2)(b) of LA FOIP.

Also, subsections 24(1)(f) of FOIP/23(1)(f) indicate that an individual’s personal opinion or view is their personal information except where the opinion or view are about another individual.  That is an excellent segue to subsections 24(1)(h) of FOIP/23(1)(h) of LA FOIP…

Subsections 24(1)(h) of FOIP/23(1)(h) of LA FOIP indicates that the views or opinions of another individual with respect to the individual is personal information. This means that an opinion or view about an individual is the personal information of the subject individual.

I hope at this point in my blog that you are not more confused than when you started.  It might be easier to classify opinions and views into three categories:

Professional Opinions

Example:  Sue works for the public body and it’s her job to provide advice and analysis on a proposed program.  Sue’s opinion is that the public body should fund the proposed program.

Is it personal information?  No!  This is not Sue’s personal information as it is her professional opinion, not a personal opinion.  It is work product.

Example:  The public body consults with PrivacyCo, a not for profit organization and a stakeholder, on the proposed program.  Jill, the Director of PrivacyCo volunteers a written submission expressing opinions about the program on behalf of the organization.

Is it personal information?  No. Jill provided the opinions in her professional capacity as Director of PrivacyCo.

Personal Opinions

Example: Bob is a concerned member of the public and Bob writes a letter to the local authority expressing his opinion that the proposed program is flawed.

Is it personal information?  Yes.  This is Bob’s personal information pursuant to subsections 24(1)(f) of FOIP/23(1)(f) of LA FOIP.  The opinion is not about another individual.  There was no indication that Bob gave this opinion in a professional context.

Opinions about another individual

Example:  Lisa is a professional employed by the local authority and is reviewing Marc’s file.  Lisa believes Marc is struggling and could benefit from the program.

Is it personal information?  Yes.  The opinion is about Marc.  This is the personal information of Marc.

Example:  Sue tells Lisa’s boss that Lisa is doing a great job managing the program.

Is it personal information?  Yes, it is the personal information of Lisa.

My professional opinion is that this topic can be confounding but I hope I have clarified it for you a little bit.

By the way, for more information about work product, read the following blog:  Work Product vs. Personal Information.

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