Listing Names on APEGGA's website: Balancing Privacy With a
Right to Know
By Sue Evison, P.Eng.
he Internet is changing
our lives. With a few clicks of the mouse, it now is possible to access
information which once would have required us laboriously to thumb through
paper files, city directories, or library card catalogues. In the past,
the inconvenience of searching may have deterred some from ferreting out
the information. The tedium of getting at the information may have served
as a fence protecting our privacy.
Until 1997, APEGGA regularly prepared and printed a bound Membership Register
listing members' names, designations, employment information, home address,
and when and where they received their education. In so doing, APEGGA
fulfilled its obligation under the Engineering, Geological and Geophysical
Professions (EGGP) Act to maintain and make such a membership list
available to the public. The printed register provided an important initial
means for the public to confirm that those holding themselves out to be
professional engineers, geologists and geophysicists indeed were registered
Printed catalogues have a number of drawbacks. Publishing them is costly.
They also suffer from being out-of-date no sooner than they are printed.
The question of timeliness of information was not solved when, starting
in June 1999, the Association made the membership list available on CD-ROM.
However, producing a CD-ROM was less costly than printing a book.
Given the advance of technology, the next logical step was to make a searchable
register available on APEGGA's website. Council under Section 60 of APEGGA's
General Regulations has the authority to decide the format of the register.
At its February 2000 meeting, Council approved placing the register online.
(Councillors reconfirmed that decision at their September meeting.) The
policy was implemented in June when the membership list was posted on
APEGGA's website. The postings occurred with strict provisions, including
encrypting of the data to prevent unauthorized use of the list by mass
mailing or advertising companies. The listed information was restricted
to the following: a member's name; home address; professional designation;
type of membership; place of employment; university degree(s) (and when
Let me stress this is much less than the information contained on APEGGA's
internal membership data base.
Many queries have been forwarded regarding posting the Membership Register
on the Web.
As engineers, geologists and geophysicists, we are aware that the introduction
of new technologies will be greeted both by cheers and jeers. Elected
officials and APEGGA staff have paid particular attention to the latter
and we remain sensitive to members who wish to limit the information about
them posted on the Web. If requested by a member, APEGGA will flag and
remove the educational, employment and address information (or change
to the work address). However, in order to meet our legal obligation of
maintaining a register, we will continue to list names of members and
Unless notified, APEGGA assumes that a member does not object to the
posting of the information now listed with his or her name.
As registered professionals, we have a public role. We are also individuals
with personal lives and a right -- where appropriate and if we wish --
to keep that side of our lives private. As President -- backed by your
Council -- I remain committed to protecting privacy while at the same
time meeting our obligation to let the public know who we are.