Section 29 - Right to request correction of personal information

Overview

Section 29 gives applicants the right to ask a public body to correct their personal information where it is wrong or to provide additional information where it is incomplete.

Section Reference

Section 29 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

(1) An applicant who believes there is an error or omission in his or her personal information may request the head of the public body that has the information in its custody or under its control to correct the information.

(2) If no correction is made in response to a request under subsection (1), the head of the public body must annotate the information with the correction that was requested but not made.

(3) On correcting or annotating personal information under this section, the head of the public body must notify any other public body or any third party to whom that information has been disclosed during the one year period before the correction was requested.

(4) On being notified under subsection (3) of a correction or annotation of personal information, a public body must make the correction or annotation on any record of that information in its custody or under its control.

Summary

This section requires public bodies to make corrections to an applicant’s information if it can be demonstrated that it is inaccurate. This section also requires public bodies to make additions to that information if it is demonstrated to be incomplete or missing. If no correction or addition is made, the record must be annotated with the correction that was requested but not made.

This section also provides that all other persons or organizations that have received copies of the information within the previous year are informed of the correction or annotation so that they can update their own records.  Individuals or organizations that are not covered by the Act cannot be compelled to correct/annotate their records.  However, public bodies that receive a notification of a correction or annotation of personal information from another public body are required by section 29 to correct or annotate that information in their custody or under their control.

Two types of information are likely to be the subject of correction requests:

  • factual information, which can be corrected if wrong and if adequate proof is available; and,
  • opinions, which are subjective and do not lend themselves to correction in most cases.

Policy

  1. Public bodies have a duty to ensure that the personal information they hold is accurate and complete (see section 28).  Factual information shall be corrected upon receiving adequate proof of the need to correct.

  2. A public body may refuse or be unable to make the correction the applicant requests, either because the applicant has not submitted adequate proof in support of the requested correction or because the information is such that it cannot be corrected (see point #4 below).

  3. When incorrect factual information was used to make a decision directly affecting an individual and the corrected factual information could have influenced the outcome of the decision, the public body is encouraged to review that decision.

  4. While factual information can be corrected, an opinion, which is a subjective assessment or evaluation of a person’s abilities, performance or other characteristics, usually cannot.  In these circumstances, public bodies must annotate the record with a statement to the effect that the applicant does not agree with the opinion given by the other person.  If the opinion is based on inaccurate or incorrect information, the person who supplied the opinion may provide an amended opinion.

  5. Public bodies informed of a correction or annotation under section 29(3) must make the same correction or annotation as that made by the informing public body.

  6. As normal practice, a record should be kept of disclosures of personal information to other public bodies or third parties, enabling subsequent notification of a correction or annotation to the record.

Procedure

Upon receipt of a written request for correction of a record, a public body shall:

  1. Correct factual errors when requested to do so by the individual the information is about if it is supported by adequate proof.  Occasionally, this correction can be made by physically changing the original record (e.g. changing transposed numbers on an application form or data entry field).  This type of change should only be made where the public body has not used or disclosed the incorrect information.  More commonly, a public body corrects a record by clearly marking the original information as incorrect and attaching the correct information to the record.

  2. Rectify any omission of information, provided the request is supported by adequate proof, by adding information so that the record is complete.

  3. Annotate a record by physically adding explanatory notes to it, such as a letter, report or other document if the requested correction does not pertain to facts or factual data, but to opinions.  For example, an annotation may consist of a letter or written statement in which the applicant disputes the facts as presented or disagrees with an opinion expressed by another person about the applicant.  Alternatively, the applicant could submit an annotated copy of the disputed record for attachment to the original document.

  4. Inform any other public body or organization with which the information was disclosed during the one year period before the correction was requested, of any such correction or annotation.

  5. The public body must inform the applicant, in writing, that:

    1. the information has been corrected;
    2. the information has been annotated; or,
    3. why a correction is inappropriate or why the proof provided is insufficient or inadequate.
  6. Set up the record or file so that the correction or annotation will always be retrieved with the original record.

Interpretation

Interpretation Note 1:

"adequate proof"

An applicant must submit proof in support of the correction where he or she claims that specific items of information are wrong.  The proof should normally be of the same quality as that required when the personal information was originally collected (for example, an original birth or baptismal certificate where proof of the applicant’s age is necessary to prove entitlement to a benefit).

An "error" is mistaken, misleading or wrong information or information that does not reflect the true state of affairs.

Example

  • Incorrect factual information such as birth date or address.

An "omission" is information that is incomplete or missing or that has been overlooked.

Example

  • A job application which does not include relevant information on professional qualifications.

In its custody or under its control

"Custody" "Control"

To correct the information

To "correct" (also correcting and correction) the information means to change or clearly mark the original information.  A public body may sometimes "correct" a record by physically changing the record to destroy the original, incorrect, information.  This type of correction is appropriate only where the public body has not used or disclosed the incorrect information in any way that affects the individual the information is about.  More often, a public body corrects a record by clearly marking the original information as incorrect and attaching the correct information to the record.

Examples

  • A public body has recorded a client's age incorrectly and denied him benefits as a result of the error.  When the client presents proof of his age the public body agrees to correct the information and reverse its decision on benefits.  It corrects the information by attaching a record of the correction rather than physically changing the record because it must have an audit trail of the information on which it based its earlier decision on benefits.

  • A public body employee misspells a client's name in transcribing information from an application form into a computer database.  The error is pointed out by the client when she receives a confirmation of receipt of the application.  The public body has not yet used or disclosed the personal information in any way, and it simply changes the record to correct the spelling.

To "annotate" (also annotating and annotation) is to add explanatory notes to a record such as a letter, report or other document (e.g., a letter or written statement in which the applicant disputes the facts as presented or disagrees with an opinion expressed by another person about the applicant).  Alternatively, the applicant could submit a copy of the disputed record, annotated by hand.  An annotation will occur when a public body refuses or is unable to make the correction, which the applicant requests, either because the applicant has not submitted adequate proof in support of the requested correction or because the information is such that it cannot be corrected, such as an opinion.  Opinions, in most cases, are subjective and do not lend themselves to correction.

Sectional Index of Commissioner's Orders

For orders organized by the Act's section numbers, Click here.

For a summary of Commissioner's orders and policy interpretation of key points, Click here.

Last updated: July 19, 2007