Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Leon’s Furniture Limited v. Alberta (Information and Privacy Commissioner) by Greg

The Alberta Court of Appeal issued a noteworthy decision on privacy rights recently in Leon’s Furniture Limited v. Alberta (Information and Privacy Commissioner), 2011 ABCA 94.

Writing for the majority, Slatter J.A. overturned the findings of an OIPC adjudicator, and determined:

- that drivers' license and license plate numbers are not "personal information" (a conclusion which conflicts with the determinations in other commissioner-level decisions such as Toronto (City) (Re), 2006 CanLII 50674 (ON I.P.C.)) and Toronto Police Services Board (Re), 2004 CanLII 56304 (ON I.P.C.)); and

- that a business' interest in collecting information serves to inform the interpretation of a statute which permits the collection, use and disclosure of personal information only where reasonable.

The decision in Leon's is based on Alberta's Personal Information Protection Act. However, the portions of the PIPA considered in the decision are similar in substance to the comparable provisions of the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, which applies in all provinces without substantially similar legislation governing collection, use and disclosure of personal information. Both define personal information generally as consisting of "information about an identifiable individual" (see PIPA s. 1(k) and PIPEDA s. 2(1)), and establish reasonableness standards governing the collection, use and disclosure of personal information (PIPA ss. 5(5), 11(1), 16(1) and 19(1); PIPEDA s. 5(3)).

As a result, Slatter J.A.'s judgment may have repercussions in analyzing the privacy obligations of organizations engaged in commercial activity across Canada. (At least, unless the decision in Leon's is appealed - as some observers are already anticipating.)

For more on Leon’s Furniture Limited v. Alberta (Information and Privacy Commissioner), see:

David Canton at Slaw - David Fraser - Dan Michaluk

This blog consists of general legal information only, and does not constitute the provision of legal advice to any person or organization. Please feel free to contact us at greg@fingaslaw.com if you require legal advice related to the collection, use and disclosure of personal information under PIPEDA.

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