Embarrassing information does not constitute threat to safety

Complaint: The Canada Revenue Agency released a DVD containing video clips introducing various parts of the organization, but withheld one clip. This segment, which CRA said qualified for protection under section 17, showed various employees wearing Batman costumes.

Investigation: The institution was unable to provide evidence of the threat to the safety of the individuals depicted that would result if the video clip were released, as section 17 requires.

Outcome: CRA offered to allow the requester to view the clip on site. The requester refused but did agree to receive a copy of the segment with the employees’ faces blurred.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • Section 17 allows institutions to protect information whose disclosure could reasonably be expected to threaten the safety of a person. Merely embarrassing information does not meet this test.
  • When claiming this exemption, institutions must show that the harm described in the provision could occur.
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