Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Freedom of Information" - Gotcha!

Twice in the past year, I have received letters from the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner because a certain scum-of-the-earth requested emails from York under the freedom of information act. The nice people at the commission explained to me that some emails I wrote fall under this request.

I explained to them precisely how I feel about said scum-of-the-earth professor, and that I consider the law a bit scary - why can they subpoena my emails? I am a not even remotely a public employee.

It is one thing for emails to be forwarded about accidentally or internally; it is quite another to tell people after the fact that their email can be demanded by any Ontario resident at any time for the purposes of transparency.

I think the unintended consequence of such legislation will be that people won't email public officials to share their opinions - a time-honored North American tradition.

This week, I sent a note about Brookline day care laws to my 15 town meeting members and my 5 selectmen (most of whom are women). A fair number responded.

At the bottom of her response, town selectman Betsy DeWitt wrote:
When responding, please remember the Secretary of the Commonwealth considers email a public record.

That appropriate disclosure is exactly what Ontario needs. Private citizens have a right to find out in advance that their emails are not considered by the state to be private.

Massachusetts 1, Ontario 0.


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