News / Edmonton

Edmonton police breached personal privacy with Project OWE

Alberta's privacy commissioner has found an Edmonton police operation aimed at arresting people for outstanding warrants, overstepped privacy legislation and has made recommendations to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Aimed at addressing a large number of outstanding warrants, EPS kicked off Project Operation Warrant Execution (OWE) in 2012, which included publishing the names and photographs, as well as other personal information, of individuals with outstanding warrants.

The information was run online as well as in local newspapers.

After learning of the initiative, privacy commissioner Jill Clayton launched her own investigation into Project OWE. A report was released Monday that found EPS did not make reasonable security arrangements to protect personal information.

Candace Cook, spokesperson for the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, said the investigation took a broad look at the campaign and identified some issues.

“We’ve made our recommendations and it is our understanding that the police service has accepted those recommendation and will be following through with what was outlined in the report,” she said.

According to the commissions report, EPS had authority to disclose some — not all — of the information it published.

Cook also noted while the Commission asked the people who had been identified to come forward and make a complaint to the office, no one did.

EPS released a statement Monday afternoon, noting while Project OWE accomplished a lot, some errors were made.

“The EPS plans to run additional Project OWE-style operations in the future after we have made the necessary changes to our policy and procedure,” EPS said in the statement, adding more than 5,000 warrants were able to be cleared from the system through the project.

The report recommends EPS complete a Privacy Impact Assessment before undertaking Project OWE again, as well as establish a policy to protect public privacy before any major projects or initiatives are implemented.

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