Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Recycling does not equal Destruction

Recycling - anyone can learn I use store brand pudding

You'll be happy to know that I'm back on task and researching away. This morning's perambulations took me to the web site of Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner. (Which, by the way, is fairly well designed and useful on the topics of access to information and privacy.)

I was happy to find absolutely nothing on my area of study. (I'm at the point where I don't need any more material, I just have to make sure I haven't left out anything important, like say an order from the IPC that is directly on point.)

What I found was the one order that appears to have been made under Ontario's relatively new Personal Health Information Protection Act. If you're like me, you've always figured that the big danger with confidential material going in your recycling box is that a neighbour might come along and find out your Visa number or learn that you've got a prescription for anti-fungal medication. Because once it goes to the recycler, it gets turned into mush and then paper towels or toilet paper. Right?

Not necessarily. Last fall, several boxes of medical records wound up blowing around an outdoor movie location in downtown Toronto because a disposal company truck driver assumed that because they weren’t in the "shredding" box, they were for general recycling and then the recycling company sold the boxes to a film company that needed lots of papers blowing around.

Here's what Anne Cavoukian, Ph. D., Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, says about recycling:

Let there be no mistake: recycling does not equal secure disposal. In the recycling process paper is collected based on its specific type and stored in warehouses for lengthy periods of time until enough has been accumulated to make a sale. ... Once an organization has discarded or sold its documents to a vendor, or a vendor has sold those documents to a processing plant, there is no guarantee how those documents will be handled or who to contact in case of a breach. [HO-001 ]

If you're ever on a movie location, and you see a lot of menus from Ricardo's with the $2-off coupons torn out, you'll know that someone got their hands on my recycling bin. But you won't find my credit card slips. They get burned in the fireplace.


Fingers said...

This isn't just insightful (with all concrete, supported facts and links) but also, quoite funny ( funny papers blowing around and your confession in the last sentence about those 2$ coupons from Ricardo's).

Nice nice, all in a day's work, no?

David Scrimshaw said...

Thank you, fingers. I appreciate the compliment. It wouldn't do for me to agree with you about people's x-rays and other medical documents blowing around because I still have that privacy activist in the house.