Limited Protection of Dependents’ Personal Information in Group Insurance Matters 

A group insurance policy often involves several parties, namely the insurance company, the plan administrator and the insured employee (or “member” of the plan), who rarely however has any negotiating power in this regard. In addition, it is often the case that a member’s dependents will be eligible for benefits under the policy.

Administering a group insurance plan requires the disclosure and communication of various items of personal information that can be quite sensitive in nature. The information that must be submitted in order to be eligible for benefits generally consists of medical information and, potentially, in the case of a member’s dependents, other personal information that they may be reluctant to disclose to the member. An example of this could be where a teenage girl wants to take contraceptives but doesn’t want her father, the member, to know about it, or where a dependent spouse doesn’t want the member to know that he or she is being treated for a sexually transmitted disease, or for depression.

Under both the federal statute on the protection of personal information, i.e. the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the various substantially similar provincial privacy statutes, the basic underlying principle is that every person must have the opportunity to consent to the collection, use and disclosure of personal information concerning him or her. In this regard it is interesting to note that in two recent decisions, one by Quebec’s access to information commission, the Commission d’accès à l’information du Québec and the other by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, limits were placed on the degree of privacy protection that must be afforded to a dependent’s personal information in a group insurance context. To read more about this topic, you may read my recent bulletin on this issue.

You can also read the French version of this bulletin.

This content has been updated on August 29, 2014 at 13 h 00 min.