Ca: Psychologist’s anonymized peer review notes are the personal information of the patient

PIPEDA Case Summary #2009-018

A dispute between a patient and her psychologist resulted in the patient requesting access to the personal information held by that psychologist. Suspecting that information was missing, the patient filed a complaint. The results of the investigation led the Assistant Privacy Commissioner to contemplate the question of what qualifies as truly anonymous data and what can be linked back to an identifiable individual.

The investigation established that a psychologist had not given the complainant access to her “peer review” notes. These notes, which the psychologist used to consult with her peers (she was seeking advice on dealing with the patient), did not name the complainant but did concern the particulars of her case. The psychologist was of the view that the notes did not contain sufficient information to identify the complainant to anyone receiving the information. As the psychologist considered them “anonymized”, she believed that the notes were not the complainant’s personal information and that the complainant had no right of access to them.

Read more on the Privacy Commissioner of Canada‘s web site.

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