Sunday, February 27, 2011


The question of what public areas are okay to photograph keeps coming up in various photography discussions that I monitor. This morning I decided to find out how the FOIP (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy) Act governs the average photographer.

Apparently, every province has their own idea of what the FOIP Act means. Each province seem to have a web site dedicated to the topic. I haven't found the Federal Government's information, yet, but I did some perusing through the Alberta Government's web site where it appears the law is relevant only to records keeping organizations (medical, legal, employers, etc.).

However, there were some areas that might interest photographers. The following is what I found on the Alberta Government: Service Alberta web site. If you're interested here are pdf and html versions of the FOIP law available for viewing on the Government of Alberta Queen's Printer web site. Ignore the cost listed, just click on the pdf or html links.

To keep life simple, I guess the best idea is to follow the rule of thumb "when in doubt ask" when taking photos of people and their maybe not so public buildings.


I didn't spend a whole lot of hours looking, but here's what I've pieced together from the html version:

Purposes of this Act
2 The purposes of this Act are
(a) to allow any person a right of access to the records in the custody or under the control of a public body subject to limited and specific exceptions as set out in this Act,
(b) to control the manner in which a public body may collect personal information from individuals, to control the use that a public body may make of that information and to control the disclosure by a public body of that information,
(c) to allow individuals, subject to limited and specific exceptions as set out in this Act, a right of access to personal information about themselves that is held by a public body,
(d) to allow individuals a right to request corrections to personal information about themselves that is held by a public body, and
(e) to provide for independent reviews of decisions made by public bodies under this Act and the resolution of complaints under this Act.

personal information” means recorded information about an identifiable individual, including
(i) the individual’s name, home or business address or home or business telephone number,
(ii) the individual’s race, national or ethnic origin, colour or religious or political beliefs or associations,
(iii) the individual’s age, sex, marital status or family status,
(iv) an identifying number, symbol or other particular assigned to the individual,
(v) the individual’s fingerprints, other biometric information, blood type, genetic information or inheritable characteristics,
(vi) information about the individual’s health and health care history, including information about a physical or mental disability,
(vii) information about the individual’s educational, financial, employment or criminal history, including criminal records where a pardon has been given,
(viii) anyone else’s opinions about the individual, and
(ix) the individual’s personal views or opinions, except if they are about someone else;

local public body” means
(i) an educational body,
(ii) a health care body, or
(iii) a local government body;

record” means a record of information in any form and includes notes, images, audiovisual recordings, x‑rays, books, documents, maps, drawings, photographs, letters, vouchers and papers and any other information that is written, photographed, recorded or stored in any manner, but does not include software or any mechanism that produces records;

Disclosure harmful to personal privacy

(2) A disclosure of personal information is not an unreasonable invasion of a third party’s personal privacy if
(a) the third party has, in the prescribed manner, consented to or requested the disclosure,

(3) The disclosure of personal information under subsection (2)(j) is an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy if the third party whom the information is about has requested that the information not be disclosed.



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