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IM putting access to information at risk: Report

Suzanne Legault, Information Commissioner of Canada, issued a special report to Parliament this week that recommends specific controls be placed on instant messaging to preserve government records and respect the federal access to information...


November 29, 2013  


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Suzanne Legault, Information Commissioner of Canada, issued a special report to Parliament this week that recommends specific controls be placed on instant messaging to preserve government records and respect the federal access to information law. Instant messages include what are commonly called PINs sent and received on BlackBerrys.

“After investigating the use of wireless devices and instant messaging in 11 federal institutions, I have concluded that there is a real risk that information that should be accessible by Canadians is being irremediably deleted or lost,” Legault said.

There were approximately 98,000 Blackberrys issued to government institutions. Instant messages sent and received on these devices are automatically deleted — usually after 30 days — making them generally unavailable for access to information purposes.

“While technology is a powerful tool for innovation, its use must not infringe on the right of Canadians to know what government is doing and to hold it accountable for its decisions,” Legault said.

The report makes three specific recommendations, including that a government-wide policy be issued instructing institutions to disable instant messaging on all government-issued wireless devices, with few exceptions.

Following the release of the report, Tony Clement, president of the Treasury Board of Canada, rejected the findings he does not agree with the recommendations and has declined to implement them.