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City privacy breached for benefit of St. John’s parking enforcement officer

The parking meter on the left refused Susan Flanagan’s new parking card six times, but the one on the right accepted it after three tries. — Photo by Susan Flanagan/Special to The Telegram
A recent privacy breach has been linked to an employee of the City of St. John’s who accessed motor vehicle registration information on behalf of a St. John's parking enforcement officer.

Access to ServiceNL database granted through co-operation agreement

In early December, an employee of the City of St. John’s accessed the ServiceNL motor registration database, providing personal information to a parking enforcement officer who had been assaulted while on the job.

While writing a ticket on Dec. 3, 2017, the officer received verbal abuse from a resident, but ultimately also reported an assault, speaking to his superiors and the police.

Apparently dissatisfied with the speed of the follow-up, the enforcement officer approached another city staff member and that individual, on request, entered a license plate number into the motor registration database and obtained a name and address, giving it to the enforcement officer.

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Privacy breaches up

Access to the ServiceNL database is given to the city under an information sharing agreement. Parking enforcement does not have access and the use of the database in this case was a privacy breach.

The individual who accessed the information mentioned it to a colleague in the legal department, who ultimately reported it. The privacy commissioner notably also recorded that some city staff were hostile to the person who reported the case.

“The City (of St. John’s) acknowledge a lack of privacy training, especially within its Department of Planning, Engineering and Regulatory Services and indicates that it will prioritize executing a new information sharing agreement in the immediate future,” stated the report issued today, from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

The investigation by that office found city staff “appeared generally unaware of their legal duties and obligations” under the privacy act.

The agreement for sharing of the information in the ServiceNL motor registration database had actually expired at the time of the incident and the Commissioner recommended a new agreement be put in place, but one with specific training requirements.

ServiceNL “can and should” follow up on third-party agreements, revoking access if efforts are not being made to protect personal information, stated Information and Privacy Commissioner Donovan Molloy.

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