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Questions and Answers about Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

The following questions and answers provide information on the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and its relationship to personal information in library patron records. The Ministry is not providing legal advice on any of the issues. For further questions relating to these questions or your particular circumstances, you must consult with your own legal advisors. For further information on what is meant by personal information and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act please consult the Ministry of Government Services Web site.

Can a library use the personal information of library patrons for purposes other than those for which the information was originally collected (e.g., fundraising, launching a new reader's advisory service)?

Personal information can only be used for the purpose for which it was originally obtained or compiled, or for a consistent purpose (see question 2). Using personal information for other purposes is not permitted by the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. If a library wants to use a patron's personal information for a purpose that is not consistent with the one for which it was originally obtained or compiled, it must first acquire the patron's written consent to use the personal information for that purpose (see question 4).

The use of a patron's personal information for fundraising would not be permitted unless that use could have been reasonably expected when the personal information was collected. Before using personal information for fundraising purposes, libraries need to carefully evaluate whether patrons could reasonably expect their personal information to be used for fundraising purposes on the basis of the written information they received when their personal information was originally collected.

Similarly, if a library wanted to use a patron's personal information for a new type of service, such as a new reader's advisory service, the library's use of the personal information for that new service would need to be consistent with the purpose for which the personal information was originally obtained or compiled.

What does 'consistent purpose' mean?

  • A purpose is a 'consistent purpose' only if the individual from whom the information was directly collected might reasonably have expected such a use of the information.

What types of library patron information are considered personal information?

  • Library patron personal information is information about the patron and includes, but is not limited to: the patron's name, address, telephone number, email address, reading preferences, record of materials borrowed, and program attendance.

What must a library do if it would like to use patron information for a new purpose?

  • If a library wants to use the personal information of patrons for a new purpose (i.e., one that is not already provided for, or consistent with the purpose under which the information was collected), the library must acquire and retain the signed consent of the library patron. This consent should state:

    • the name of the patron;
    • the particular personal information to be used;
    • the use or uses for which consent is given;
    • the date of the consent; and
    • the institution to which consent is given.

    Where a library does not retain a paper copy of the patron's signed consent, it is recommended that some record which demonstrates written consent was received is maintained.