"Commercial activity" is a key concept under PIPEDA.
The private sector privacy obligations under PIPEDA apply to to
every organization in respect of personal information that the
organization "collects, uses or discloses in the course of
So, what is a "commercial activity"? PIPEDA provides
that commercial activity includes "any particular transaction,
act or conduct or any regular course of conduct that is of a
commercial character, including the selling, bartering or leasing
of donor, membership or other fundraising lists." What is a
transaction, act or conduct that is of a "commercial
character"? A good litmus test is to ask whether you are
receiving monetary or non-monetary consideration for your
activities or whether you are providing a service to an
organization engaged in commercial activity? If so, you may be
involved in "commercial activity".
The OPC provides illustrative examples. A doctor is engaged in a
commercial activity when he or she conducts a medical examination
on behalf of an insurance company for the purpose of processing a
benefits claim. A non-profit organization is engaged in a
commercial activity when administering entrance exams as a service
to its members. An on-line social network is engaged in commercial
activity when it uses personal information to enhance user
experience in order to succeed as a commercial enterprise.
About Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP (FMC)
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A discussion on a recent decision of the Alberta Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner in which an adjudicator emphasizes the narrow scope of personal information that can be considered reasonable to collect, use, and disclose for the purpose of providing background checks.
Canada’s Federal Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart today released a position paper which offers a roadmap for modernizing Canada’s federal private-sector privacy law, Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), so that it more effectively tackles current and future privacy issues.