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I live in Ontario and recently my SIN Number changed. I notified my employer about the change and they asked me to email them the new sin number. I do not want to do so and I prefer to update my sin number through a secured website (https).

But, the employer does not have a secured system. They in-directly insists on sending it with email. Is it legal to do so? and what should I do?

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    What you should do is (assuming they have the right to get your SIN) phone it in, fax it, surface mail it, or encrypt it in email. Rigorously verify that the requester is legit (this could be phishing). Can't say, though, whether there is a law compelling them to accept the number in a different format. – user6726 Aug 1 '17 at 18:26
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    Also, I assume you mean "require" rather than "ask". You can ask anything you want; if an entity has no legal right to an SIN, they can still legally ask. – user6726 Aug 1 '17 at 20:47
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It is generally legal for a business to ask, but it is not legal for a business to insist that you provide it as a condition of providing goods and services unless a law requires that the SIN be provided. As explained by the relevant Canadian government website:

While there is no law barring businesses from asking for the SIN where there is no legal requirement to do so, they do need to make people aware that collection of a SIN is optional and not a condition of service.

The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) sets out ground rules for how private sector organizations may handle personal information — including the SIN — in the course of commercial activities.

Under the law, organizations cannot require you to consent to the collection, use or disclosure of your personal information unless it is required for a specific and legitimate purpose.

This means that, unless an organization can show that your SIN is required by law, you cannot be denied a product or service on the grounds of your refusal to provide your SIN.

Of course, the rub is, that an employer is legally required to have your updated SIN for tax purposes, so the employer is allowed to demand, rather than merely request that you provide it. In particular:

7.3 In addition to the circumstances set out in section 7, for the purpose of clause 4.3 of Schedule 1, and despite the note that accompanies that clause, a federal work, undertaking or business may collect, use and disclose personal information without the consent of the individual if

(a) the collection, use or disclosure is necessary to establish, manage or terminate an employment relationship between the federal work, undertaking or business and the individual; and

(b) the federal work, undertaking or business has informed the individual that the personal information will be or may be collected, used or disclosed for those purposes.

A business is required to do this consistent with Schedule 1 to the Act which provides in the most pertinent part:

4.7 Principle 7 — Safeguards Personal information shall be protected by security safeguards appropriate to the sensitivity of the information.

4.7.1

The security safeguards shall protect personal information against loss or theft, as well as unauthorized access, disclosure, copying, use, or modification. Organizations shall protect personal information regardless of the format in which it is held.

4.7.2

The nature of the safeguards will vary depending on the sensitivity of the information that has been collected, the amount, distribution, and format of the information, and the method of storage. More sensitive information should be safeguarded by a higher level of protection. The concept of sensitivity is discussed in Clause 4.3.4.

4.7.3

The methods of protection should include

(a) physical measures, for example, locked filing cabinets and restricted access to offices;

(b) organizational measures, for example, security clearances and limiting access on a “need-to-know” basis; and

(c) technological measures, for example, the use of passwords and encryption.

4.7.4

Organizations shall make their employees aware of the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of personal information.

4.7.5

Care shall be used in the disposal or destruction of personal information, to prevent unauthorized parties from gaining access to the information (see Clause 4.5.3).

There is really no specific provision allowing you to refuse to provide information via email, but the Safeguards provision does state that appropriate care does need to be taken to avoid disclosure, and you are disputing that their email collection is adequate. Also, while employers are required to collect SIN data from employees, there is nothing that expressly requires them to collect it via email.

If you wanted to compromise, one option would be to save the SIN in a password protected word processing document (usually available in the save as window in an obscure little corner), and then you could attach the password protected document to the email and communicate the password itself to the recipient orally via telephone with you calling their number to prevent any phishing scam. It's a bit clunky, but it gets the job done.

Also, please recognize that while a SIN number is important to keep confidential to the extent possible, it is hardly the most sensitive personal information in existence. Lots of people have a need to know it for legitimate purposes and it probably wouldn't be hard at all for someone to get it illegitimately by making a request for your credit record or a tax return transcript under false pretenses.

  • You know... Sometimes I just wonder whether you're some sort of legal master who happens to know everything about anything... – Zizouz212 Aug 2 '17 at 4:34
  • @Zizouz212 I have this buddy. His name is Google. He does all the really hard work. – ohwilleke Aug 2 '17 at 16:15

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