Upper Ottawa Valley Genealogical Group
Comments on the Privacy Act
Privacy Act and Personal Information Protection & Electronics Documents Act (PIPEDA)
Privacy Considerations in Genealogical Research
It will take time, but until something to the contrary occurs, virtually all genealogical endeavours should remain unaffected. As stated, the thrust of the legislation has to do with commercial activities and what, how and why personal information is collected, used and shared. It is not intended to end genealogy or family history, but it may affect what can or should be published.
Based on present information, the following guidelines are meant to suggest what we consider to be appropriate methodologies.
- Document your sources. If you can demonstrate that the source of your information is in the public domain,
however recent, use of the information should not invoke privacy concerns. This could include such things as a birth announcement
in todays newspaper or the transcription of a grave marker erected yesterday. (Yes, there has been some concern
expressed over being able to transcribe or photograph markers in cemeteries. It is unlikely to gain any traction but, if it does,
some court may eventually have to decide the issue. But it hardly seems likely to occur.)
- Use the Archives of Ontario (or the jurisdiction where your information was obtained) as the guide for
whether vital statistics are public domain or not. Under the current system in Ontario, once 97, 82 and 72 years have passed
after the event of birth, marriage or death, respectively, the registration of that event becomes a public document.
- Church records are bit more problematic. Probably the safest course of action is again to follow the
Ontario (or wherever it is you are researching) guidelines for releasing vital statistics information as noted above. If the
particular church has a specific policy that allows one to obtain more recent information (more than 30 years old as an
example), you should be relatively safe if you adhere to that. However, should you ever be so fortunate as to have a kindly
person allow you to copy recent records, it probably would not be wise to publish that information, despite being allowed
to obtain it.
- What about the information derived from family without any additional public domain documentation?
The safest course is to obtain written consent to use that information. It sounds, and is, cumbersome but its safe.
If you publish Aunt Mollys birth date and she complains, you may have a problem. Not too likely perhaps, but
- How about information from the vast expanse of the Internet? It almost goes without saying that
you should track down the original source. And again, following the vital statistics rules should preclude any possible
problem. Also, consider carefully before publishing anything of a more recent nature, regardless of the fact that it was
From the Ontario Genealogical Society, Jan. 1, 2004
Thanks to the staff at the Ontario Genealogical Society for their permission to reprint this article.
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Created Apr. 13, 2004