Privacy of personal information is an important principle to Brainworks. We are committed to collecting, using and disclosing personal information responsibly and only to the extent necessary for the services we provide. We strive to be open and transparent regarding how we handle personal information. This document describes our privacy policies.
What is Personal Information?
Personal information is information about an identifiable individual. Personal information includes information that relates to: an individual’s personal characteristics (e.g., gender, age, income, home address or phone number, ethnic background, family status); health (e.g., health history, health conditions, health services received by them); or, activities and views (e.g., religion, politics, opinions expressed by an individual, an opinion or evaluation of an individual). Personal information is different from business information (e.g., an individual’s business address and telephone number). This is not protected by privacy legislation.
Who We Are
Our organization, Brainworks, includes, at the time of writing professional staff from nine different disciplines as well as administrative staff. We use a number of consultants and agencies that may, in the course of their duties, have limited access to personal information we hold. These include accountants and lawyers. We restrict their access to any personal information we hold as much as is reasonably possible. We also have their assurance that they follow appropriate privacy principles.
We Collect Personal Information: Primary Purposes
Like all rehabilitation service providers we collect, use and disclose personal information in order to serve our clients and provide appropriate treatment. For example, we collect information about a client’s health history, including their cognitive, behavioural, psychosocial, and physical status as well as family history and social situation in order to help us assess what their health needs are, to advise them of their options and then to provide the treatment they choose to have. We also collect information on our client’s status so that in providing ongoing health services we can identify changes that occur over time. It would be rare for us to collect such information without the client’s express consent, but this might occur in an emergency (e.g. the client is unconscious) or where we believe the client would consent if asked and it is impractical to obtain consent (e.g. a family member passing a message on from our client and we have no reason to believe that the message is not genuine).
About Members of the General Public
For members of the general public, our primary purposes for collecting personal information are to provide notices of special events (e.g., a seminar or conference) or to make them aware of rehabilitation therapy or psychological services in general or Brainworks’ services in particular. While we try to use work contact information where possible, we might collect home addresses, fax numbers and email addresses. We try to obtain consent before using any such personal information, but where this is not, for any reason, possible, we will upon request immediately remove any personal information from our distribution list.
About Contract Staff, Volunteers and Students
For contract staff (e.g., temporary workers), our primary purpose for collecting personal information is to ensure that we can contact them in the future (e.g., for new assignments) and for necessary work-related communication (e.g., sending out pay cheques, year-end tax receipts). Examples of the personal information we collect for those purposes include home addresses and telephone numbers. It is rare for us to collect such information without prior consent, but it might happen in the case of a health emergency (e.g., a SARS outbreak) or to investigate a possible breach of law (e.g. if a theft were to occur). If contract staff, volunteers or students wish a letter of reference or an evaluation, we will collect information about their work-related performance and provide a report as authorized by them.
We Collect Personal Information: Related and Secondary Purposes
Like most organizations, we also collect, use and disclose information for purposes related to or secondary to our primary purposes. The most common examples of our related and secondary purposes are as follows:
- To invoice clients for goods or services that were not paid for at the time or to collect unpaid accounts.
- To advise clients that their product or service should be reviewed (e.g., to ensure a product is still functioning properly and appropriate for their current needs and to consider modifications or replacement).
- To advise clients and others of special events or opportunities (e.g., a seminar, development of a new service, arrival of a new product) that we have available.
- We review client and other files for the purpose of ensuring that we provide high quality services, including assessing the performance of our staff. In addition, external consultants (e.g., auditors, lawyers, practice consultants, voluntary accreditation programs) may on our behalf do audits and continuing quality improvement reviews of Brainworks, including reviewing client files and interviewing our staff.
- Some of our employees are regulated by professional colleges, listed at the end of this document. These regulatory bodies may inspect our records and interview our staff as a part of their regulatory activities in the public interest. In addition, as professionals, we will report serious misconduct, incompetence or incapacity of other practitioners, whether they belong to other organizations or our own. Also, our organization believes that it should report information suggesting serious illegal behaviour to the authorities. External regulators have their own strict privacy obligations. Sometimes these reports include personal information about our clients, or other individuals, to support the concern (e.g., improper services). Also, like all organizations, various government agencies (e.g., Canada Revenue Agency, Information and Privacy Commissioner, Human Rights Commission, etc.) have the authority to review our files and interview our staff as a part of their mandates. In these circumstances, we may consult with professionals (e.g., lawyers, accountants) who will investigate the matter and report back to us.
- The cost of some goods/services provided by Brainworks is paid for by third parties (e.g., private insurance) These third-party payers often have consent or legislative authority to direct us to collect and disclose to them certain information in order to demonstrate client entitlement to this funding.
- Clients or other individuals we deal with may have questions about our goods or services after they have been received. We also provide ongoing services for many of our clients over a period of months or years for which our previous records are helpful. We retain our client information for a minimum of ten years after the last contact to enable us to respond to those questions and provide these services. Each professional college has its own requirements for how long records must be retained.
- If Brainworks or its assets were to be sold, the purchaser would want to conduct a “due diligence” review of our records to ensure that the business is viable and that it has been honestly portrayed to the purchaser. This due diligence may involve some review of our accounting and service files. The purchaser would not be able to remove or record personal information. Before being provided access to the files, the purchaser must provide a written promise to keep all personal information confidential. Only reputable purchasers who have already agreed to buy the organization’s business or its assets would be provided access to personal information, and only for the purpose of completing their due diligence search prior to closing the purchase.
One can choose not to be part of some of these related or secondary purposes (e.g., by declining to receive notice of special events or opportunities, by paying for your services in advance). We do not, however, have much choice about some of these related or secondary purposes which are regulated externally.
Protecting Personal Information
We understand the importance of protecting personal information. For that reason, we have taken the following steps:
- Paper information is either under supervision or secured in a locked or restricted area at all times.
- Electronic hardware is either under supervision or secured in a locked or restricted area at all times. In addition, we use minimal identifying information (i.e. first names only) in cell phone conversations, and all of our cell phones are digital as these signals are more difficult to intercept.
- Paper information is transmitted through sealed, addressed envelopes or boxes by Canada Post or reputable companies.
- Information transmitted by fax has a cover sheet identifying the recipient and a privacy clause on it. In addition, we confirm the accuracy of fax numbers with recipients prior to using them for the first time. The recipient must also advise that the fax machine is securely located and there is no basis to doubt the assurance; or in the context the privacy can reasonably be inferred (e.g. it is to an organization that is expected to keep information private like a legal, accounting or health care office)
- Electronic information is transferred though a direct line, has identifiers removed, is encrypted, or it is done with the consent of the person to whom the personal information relates. A privacy clause is included on all outgoing email containing personal information.
- External consultants and agencies with access to personal information must enter into privacy agreements with us.
Retention and Destruction of Personal Information
We need to retain personal information for some time to ensure that we can answer any questions about the services provided and for our own accountability to external regulatory bodies. We do not want to keep personal information too long, in order to protect privacy.
We keep our client files for ten years in the case of an adult, and in the case of a child we keep our files for ten years beyond the child’s 18th birthday. Our client and contact directories are much more difficult to systematically destroy, so we remove such information when we can if it does not appear that we will be contacting the client again. However, on request we will remove such contact information right away. We keep any personal information relating to our general correspondence (i.e., with people who are not clients) newsletters, seminars and marketing activities for about six months after the newsletter ceases publication or a seminar or marketing activity is over.
We destroy paper files containing personal information by shredding. We destroy electronic information by deleting it and, when the hardware is discarded, we ensure that the hard drive is physically destroyed.
You Can Look At Your Information
With only a few exceptions, you have the right to see what personal information we hold about you. Often all you have to do is ask. We can help you identify what records we might have about you. We will also try to help you understand any information you do not understand (e.g., short forms, technical language, etc.). We will need to confirm your identity, if we do not know you, before providing you with information from our records. We may charge a nominal fee for such requests.
If there is a problem, we may ask you to put your request in writing. If we cannot give you access, we will tell you within 30 days if at all possible and tell you the reason why we cannot give you access.
If you believe there is a mistake in the information, you have the right to ask for it to be corrected. This applies to factual information and not to any professional opinions we may have formed. We may ask you to provide documentation that our files are wrong. Where we agree that we made a mistake, we will make the correction and, where appropriate, notify anyone to whom we sent this information. If we do not agree that we have made a mistake, we will agree to include in our file a brief statement from you on the point and, as appropriate, we will forward that statement to anyone else who received the earlier information.
Do You Have A Concern?
Please contact our Privacy Officer, Arden McGregor. She will address any questions or concerns you might have.
79 Ridout Street South
London ON N6C 3X2
Phone: (519) 657-1180
Fax: (519) 657-1182
Email: [email protected]
If you wish to make a formal complaint about our privacy practices, you may make it in writing to our Privacy Officer. She will acknowledge receipt of your complaint, ensure that it is investigated promptly and give you a formal written response with reasons.
If you have a concern about the professionalism or competence of our services or the mental or physical capacity of any of our professional staff we would ask you to discuss those concerns with us. Some of our employees are members of professional associations or are governed by regulatory bodies. In these cases, if we cannot satisfy your concerns, you are entitled to complain to the relevant regulatory body or association.
Vocational Rehabilitation Association of Canada
4 Cataraqui Street, Suite 310
Kingston, ON, K7K 1Z7
Toll Free: 888-876-9992
Email: [email protected]
The College of Psychologists of Ontario
110 Eglinton Avenue West, Suite 500
Toronto, Ontario M4R 1A3
Phone: (416) 961-8817
Toll Free: (800) 489-8388
Fax: (416) 961-2635
Email: [email protected]
The Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers
250 Bloor Street East, Suite 1000
Toronto, Ontario M4W 1E6
Phone: (416) 972-9882
Toll Free: (877) 828-9380
Fax: (416) 972-1512
Email: [email protected]
For more general inquiries, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada oversees the administration of privacy legislation in the private sector. The Commissioner also acts as an ombudsman for privacy disputes. You can contact the Privacy Commissioner as follows:
The Privacy Commissioner of Canada
112 Kent Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1H3
Phone: (613) 995-8210
Toll Free: (800) 282-1376
TTY: (613) 922-9190
Fax: (613) 947-6850