Resources: Faculty, Staff & Students
Are email addresses confidential?
Work email addresses (e.g. jane.doe@ smu.ca) are not confidential because they are business contact information, which is public information. Many work email addresses are published on the Saint Mary’s University website.
Personal email addresses (including all student and alumni email addresses) are considered to be personal information and are therefore confidential. Personal email addresses must not be shared with others without the recipient’s written consent. If you need to share personal email addresses for legitimate purposes (e.g. for a class project) you should ask the individuals for their consent, and give them an opportunity to create a temporary email address for that purpose.
When sending emails to multiple personal email addresses, you must not place those email addresses in the “To” field because you will expose the email addresses to the other recipients. To hide the email addresses, you must place them in the “Bcc” (blind carbon copy) field.
Are email messages university records?
Email messages are University records and should be classified and converted to the storage medium most suitable for retention. Transitory email messages may be deleted without conversion to another medium.
Are email messages accessible under the FOIPOP Act?
Emails are accessible under the Act. To lessen the impact of FOIPOP requests for emails it is best to manage them as you create them or receive them. Any email that should be filed according to your office classification requirements (i.e. have value, are not transitory in nature) should be stored in the unit's electronic records management system (permanent files) or be printed out, filed as paper and deleted from the email system. Transitory emails should be deleted when read or sent. If email is deleted from the local computer, it is the equivalent of shredded records or records put in a recycling bin. Any central back-up of email is for purposes of disaster recovery only, and not for recovery of specific items of deleted email for freedom of information access requests.
Where staff and faculty want to retain email on the system for office business it should still be printed to a hard copy file where it's not transitory in nature. Email messages are records and accessible under FOIPOP. Manage them like any other record.
Please refer to the University Email Procedures and Guidelines(PDF)
Recording Class Lectures
Key Privacy Considerations for Faculty
- Wherever possible, lectures should limit the capture of student video, photos, audio and written comments.
- Appropriate notification that lectures will be recorded must be provided at the beginning of term (e.g., with the course syllabus, message from the course instructor to students, on the course website, etc.).
- Students must consent to participate in recordings. Alternative options to participate must be offered if students do not wish to have their image, audio or written comments recorded (e.g., watching the recording at a later date and providing an opportunity to ask questions, registering to view the sessions with a pseudonym, etc.). Students must not be disadvantaged because of privacy concerns.
- Recordings are for internal class purposes only. Should the instructor wish to re-use the recording, written student consent must be obtained from all students who participated in the recording. Should the instructor wish to remove the audio or video of students captured during the recording, written student consent must be obtained.
- Access is restricted to the instructor and students registered for the course.
- Recordings will only be available during the period the course is offered.
Syllabus Statement: Faculty may include a statement in their course syllabus, that indicates by participating in this course, students consent to the collection of their name, image, voice, and/or written comments. You can adapt the sample language below to fit for your course.
As the University transitions to online learning, it remains committed to supporting alternative methods of course delivery. The University recognizes that students may be attending classes from other time zones, and that recording class lectures can contribute to the accessibility and flexibility of student learning. During this course, live class discussions may (will) be recorded (video and audio). As a student in this course, your participation may (will) be recorded. Recordings will be stored on the University’s LMS and will only be available to students enrolled in this course. Recordings will be available until (INSERT DATE COURSE IS DISABLED). By attending these live classes, you are consenting to the collection of your name, image, voice and written comments. Students who prefer not to have their video, photo, audio or written comments (chat) recorded will be provided with alternative options to participate from their instructor.
Your instructor owns the rights to the content they create, and it is intended for your personal use in this class. Posting this content on external sites or sharing it with people outside of your class without permission is not permitted.
Avoid quoting another person
As a general rule, faculty and staff should not be recording conversations by quoting those persons who made the comments. Quotations and the name of the person quoted are not released under the Act unless they meet one of its specific exemptions.
For example, minutes of meetings should not record every discussion as verbatim. In most cases a concise and objective statement explaining the discussion topic and the decision reached is more than adequate. Don't quote people unless they want their point "on the record" or if you need it to be on the record.
There will be times when staff and faculty should record someone's exact words. Some examples are cases of harassment, legal opinions and personnel issues like employee discipline. Don't collect (i.e. record) information you don't need.
Don't record subjective comments
Faculty and staff should not be recording unsubstantiated subjective evaluations in University records. This is especially true where comments or opinions are about another individual. Under the Act, these comments are considered to be the personal information of the individual they are about and, therefore, that individual has a right of access to them.
For example, a comment on file saying "I'd like to get my hands on him" could probably be re-phrased, without losing the meaning, to: "I'd like to locate him". Be objective. Don't write it down unless you are prepared to have it read.
Avoid putting transitory notes on file
The Act does not differentiate between an official file and an unofficial file. Any record in the University's custody or control is accessible under the Act, official or otherwise. For example, faculty and staff should not put hastily scribbled notes from a telephone conversation on file until they have taken the time to re-write them removing all subjective comments or unneeded quotations. Further, once they have re-written the notes into the formal file faculty and staff should promptly destroy the transitory notes (scribbles), which are no longer needed.
Draft copies of memos/letters/reports are considered transitory records or records of temporary usefulness for a limited period of time. Draft copies should be recycled/shredded when the final copy is completed and approved. As long as they exist these drafts are part of the file and they can be requested under the FOIPOP Act.
Files that are particularly sensitive to FOIPOP requests include personnel files, student files, issue files, and appeal files. It is common practice to create a working file containing copies of all records relating to a particular issue/grievance/appeal. Care should be taken, within the working file, to separate administrative records from the issue records. For example, telephone messages and staff and faculty memos should be separated from correspondence, memos, or reports directly connected to the issue. Keep only the final version of your notes. Always destroy your transitory notes.