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Survey: Access to Information and Privacy Rights Matter to Albertans

November 30, 2017

Albertans believe strongly that it is important to protect privacy and the right to access information in Alberta, a public opinion survey commissioned by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) has found.

The survey, conducted in October 2017, showed that 95% of respondents believe it is important to protect the privacy of personal information, but only 27% felt more secure about the privacy of their own personal information today than they did five years ago. More than 90% of respondents felt it is important to protect their right to access information, although only 39% were confident about their ability to exercise that right.

“Albertans care about these issues, but new technologies, shifting economies and evolving social norms are challenging our ability to exercise these rights,” said Information and Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton. “This survey helps to inform my office and stakeholders about where to focus to improve Albertans’ awareness of how they are impacted by these issues and how they can exercise their rights under Alberta’s three access and privacy laws.”

The survey also asked Albertans to identify the access and privacy issues of most importance. A list of 24 topics was provided and respondents identified the following as the most significant:

  • Identity theft and fraud
  • Hacking, malware, ransomware and email phishing
  • Inappropriate employee access (also referred to as employee “snooping”)
  • Mobile device security
  • Child and youth privacy

Since 2013, when the OIPC last commissioned a general population survey, the number of access requests submitted to government departments and other local public bodies has increased significantly. Additionally, privacy breaches caused by hacking, phishing or malware in the private sector are more frequently reported to the OIPC, as well as “snooping” cases in the health sector. These and other realities continue to bring access and privacy issues to the fore in Alberta.

Survey results show that while these issues continue to matter to Albertans, the public often struggles to understand how their own lives are impacted, and how they can exercise their legal rights under Alberta’s access and privacy laws. Less than half of respondents were aware that they can file a complaint with the OIPC when they feel that their personal or health information has been improperly collected, used or disclosed. And only 32% were aware that they can ask the OIPC to review a response to an access request that they received from a public body, health care provider or private business.

The general population telephone survey of 800 randomly selected Albertans provides feedback about the public’s awareness of access and privacy laws, their rights under those laws, and the role of the OIPC, as well as to identify the access and privacy issues of most importance to Albertans. The survey has a margin of error no greater than +3.5% at the 95% confidence level or 19 times out of 20.

The results of the survey are available at www.oipc.ab.ca.

The Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta works independently of government to protect the access and privacy rights of all Albertans. The Commissioner oversees and enforces the administration of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Health Information Act and Personal Information Protection Act.

Contact
Scott Sibbald
Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner
780-422-9048

Background

Awareness of Access and Privacy Laws

  • 63% of respondents were aware of laws to protect their personal or health information (compared to 69% in 2013)
  • 41% were aware of laws to provide individuals with the right to access information (compared to 48% in 2013)
  • 73% were aware of their right to request access to their own personal or health information (compared to 79% in 2013)
  • 65% were aware they had a right to request access to general information held by public bodies (compared to 69% in 2013)

Awareness of OIPC

  • 52% of respondents had heard about the OIPC (compared to 54% in 2013)
  • 46% of respondents knew they could file a complaint with the OIPC about the collection, use or disclosure of their personal or health information (compared to 47% in 2013)
  • 32% knew they could ask the OIPC to review a response they received to a request for access to information (compared to 30% in 2013)
  • 29% were aware that the OIPC is separate from the Government of Alberta and reports directly to the Legislative Assembly (compared to 27% in 2013)

Trends and Issues

  • When asked to rate the importance of a variety of access and privacy issues the following were identified as the most significant (on a scale of 1 to 5, the highest percentage rating the significance of the issue as a 4 or 5 out of 5):
    • Identity theft and fraud (92%; rephrased slightly from 2013 survey)
    • Hacking, malware, ransomware and email phishing (83%; rephrased slightly from 2013 survey)
    • Inappropriate employee access (76%, compared to 85% in 2013)
    • Mobile device security (75%, compared to 74% in 2013)
    • Child and youth privacy (73%, compared to 77% in 2013)
  • The following were identified as the least significant issues (on a scale of 1 to 5, the lowest percentage rating the issue as a 4 or 5 out of 5):
    • Online behavioural targeting or marketing (52%, compared to 58% in 2013)
    • Vehicles collecting data on driving habits (52%; issue was not included in 2013 survey)
    • Use of personal mobile devices at work (47%, compared to 45% in 2013)
    • Businesses or governments using social media to communicate with you (37%, compared to 44% in 2013)
    • Using an employer’s equipment and technology for your own personal use (34%, compared to 37% in 2013)