GTH board shouldn't use personal email to send 'sensitive' info: privacy report

The province's office of Information and Privacy Commissioner is recommending Global Transportation Hub board members stop using private email for sensitive information.

Premier Brad Wall was criticized by NDP in May for using private email to conduct government business

Premier Brad Wall drew criticism for his use of a private email server. Wall's office said the private server was held to the same standard of security as government servers. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

The provincial privacy commissioner says members of the Global Transportation Hub's board of directors received "sensitive" information at private email addresses — and says board members should conduct government business with government email rather than their personal email accounts.

The suggestion was contained in a report related to a Freedom of Information request filed by CBC Saskatchewan in April 2016, which was denied. A review was requested and heavily redacted information spanning hundreds of pages worth of emails which had been shared through private email accounts was provided.

"It is clear from the record in this case that sensitive GTH information was sent to board members at their personal email addresses. I strongly encourage GTH to reconsider this practice," the report said.

Some of the redacted emails in the report were personal email addresses of GTH board members who were acting in an advisory role rather than as employees.

The board members did not have GTH email addresses and the initial Freedom of Information refusal and subsequent revision was due to potential privacy problems related to personal email accounts.

Kruzeniski said the report recommends using government accounts rather than personal accounts to avoid mixing personal and formal business. (Samanda Brace/CBC)

"No government institution shall disclose personal information in its possession or under its control without the consent, given in the prescribed manner, of the individual to whom the information relates," read section 29 (1) of the Freedeom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which was cited as one of the reasons for the initial refusal. 

Though board members are not employees working full work weeks, they are nonetheless an integral part of the organization, said Ron Kruzeniski, freedom of information commissioner for the province. 

"When you think about it, the best practice is that the organization that you are involved with set up a separate email account where anything relevant to your position ... goes to that account," Kruzeniski said.

Private email use for government business

​The report comes a month after Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall was criticized by the Opposition New Democrats for conducting government business using his own personal email server.

Last month, Wall said he felt no need to stop using his private email for government business but later agreed to use a government email. 

Kathy Young, Wall's chief of operations and communications, said Wall's emails, whether sent from a government or personal address, are subject to freedom of information legislation. Young also said the premier's private email is secure.

Cabinet minister Joe Hargrave said every MLA uses private email for government business back in May. Hargrave said he himself had used a private account for government business but that practice has been halted.

"We appreciate the advice of the Information and Privacy Commissioner and will consider all the recommendations," a GTH spokesperson said through an email Tuesday afternoon.

With files from Stephanie Taylor and Jason Warick