Canada mayor faces privacy fine after requesting DNA from woman on Facebook Messenger

Now, the province of Ontario is ruling that an online request for DNA info from a women also on social media should violate the women’s privacy rights and could cause harm to her body and reproductive system. The request, to determine if a woman was infected with an HPV-19 strain of the herpes virus, had left nearly 8,000 people unvaccinated at one Ontario hospital, including 6,000 patients and family members of emergency room and urgent care patients at a public hospital where the request was received, according to the Toronto Star. The woman in question is Mayor Patrick Brown, a former Member of Parliament who left his post last year amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

Brown’s namesake firm, Patrick Brown SA, reportedly sent a single message from the mayor’s account via Facebook messenger to a woman on Nov. 16, saying, “Do you have pregnancy or STI testing done lately? . . . My daughter has HPV. Do you get your boys vaccinated every year?”

A week after receiving the message, the woman contacted Brown. Brown told the Star that the message wasn’t about him personally, but it did mention his daughter and family. At the time, Brown was running for a leadership spot of the federal Conservative Party. In the year since the Nov. 16 message, Brown has said he has never had a conversation with the woman that would lead to a serious request for DNA.

On Tuesday, Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Patricia Sorbara issued an opinion ruling the mayor’s request was “alarmingly invasive.” The commissioner found Brown had not sought consent from the woman “prior to sharing that genetic information, without informing her of what he was doing and without providing her an opportunity to respond.” The commissioner also found Brown had directly asked the woman if her mother had ever had herpes, and that information that was shared could put her at increased risk of infection. Sorbara found that Brown broke provincial law and recommended that the mayor should receive a letter of reprimand for his actions.

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