Material Privacy Breaches

Material Privacy breaches must be reported to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) and Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS). The institution will conduct an investigation to determine the level of risk resulting from the privacy breach. A material privacy breach has the highest risk impact and is defined as:

  • Involving sensitive personal information; and
  • Could reasonably be expected to cause serious injury or harm to the individual and/or involves a large number of affected individuals.

“Sensitive personal information” includes, but is not limited to,  the following:

  • Medical, psychiatric or psychological information;
  • Information compiled and identifiable as part of an investigation into a possible violation of law;
  • Criminal history;
  • Information on the eligibility for social benefits or the determination of benefit levels;
  • Information describing an individual's finances (income, assets, liabilities, net worth, bank balances, tax returns, financial history or activities, or creditworthiness);
  • Information containing personal recommendations or evaluations, personal opinions about a sensitive subject, character references, or personnel evaluations;
  • Information concerning an individual's racial or ethnic origin or religious or political beliefs and associations or lifestyle; and
  • Certain tombstone information, including birthdate and Social Insurance Number.

“Serious injury to the individual” includes the following:

  • Identity theft or some other related fraud;
  • Material loss to the individual; and
  • Lasting harm or embarrassment that will have direct negative effects on a litigation involving the individual, on an individual's career, reputation, financial position, safety, health or well-being.

The institution must also take the number of affected individuals into consideration when determining a material privacy breach, as the more individuals affected raises the risk of causing serious injury or harm.

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