May 20, 2017

By Christine Ross

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Some civil servants may be creeping your Facebook profile. Government employees who decide whether someone is eligible for benefits have been told to stop playing amateur sleuths by searching social media profiles of applicants. Senior officials learned that staff were logging on to social media websites to check on any suspicions they had with someone’s application for Canada Pension Plan disability benefits. And now other benefit programs — employment insurance, seniors’ benefits like old age security and the guaranteed income supplement — have been subjected to the same reminder. The only personal information the department is allowed to collect has to come from the applicant or from a third party like a doctor, employer, or family member. A briefing note prepared for a senior official last year says that employees determining eligibility for CPP or old age security payments shouldn’t be starting an “investigation, surveillance, or the collection and use of information from the Internet, newspapers, funeral homes or any other public sources.

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