Canada: Privacy Law And Your Business - PIPEDA To Take Effect On January 1, 2004

Last Updated: December 19 2003
Article by Donald Henderson

Beginning on January 1, 2004, the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, commonly referred to as PIPEDA, will apply to the collection, use and disclosure of personal information in the course of any private sector commercial activity in Ontario. PIPEDA will also apply to commercial transactions undertaken by entities which are not, by their nature, profit- oriented (for example, the selling, bartering or leasing of donor membership lists by charities or not-for-profit organizations).

Although businesses will need to review their information management practices to ensure that they comply with PIPEDA, ensuring compliance with PIPEDA will likely not be burdensome (except for businesses that deal with personal information as a business asset). Nonetheless, if a business does not follow the requirements of the legislation, it may suffer adverse publicity and/or incur legal liability.

PIPEDA already applies to federal works, undertakings or businesses - this includes entities such as banks, airlines, interprovincial transport companies and telecommunications companies. It also applies to all transactions which involve the disclosure of personal information across provincial or international borders for consideration (such as the sale of membership lists), whether the parties to the transaction are federally-regulated or not.

Personal information is defined in PIPEDA as "information about an identifiable individual"; this broad definition includes information such as race, age and financial information. However, the definition of personal information specifically excludes the name, title, business address and business telephone number of an employee of an organization, so the use of this information is not subject to the requirements of the Act. PIPEDA will also not apply to certain specified publicly-available information (including, for example, information contained in a telephone book).

Exceptions to the Application of PIPEDA

There are several exceptions to the application of PIPEDA for non-federally regulated entities. The major exception is that PIPEDA will not apply to an employer's collection, use and disclosure of personal information of its own employees. In addition, the Act will not apply to commercial activity in a province if that province has legislation which the federal government deems to be 'substantially similar' to PIPEDA. In Quebec, comprehensive private sector privacy legislation is already in force. In Ontario, draft legislation has not yet been introduced by the new provincial government and it appears extremely unlikely that such legislation will be in place by January 1, 2004. British Columbia and Alberta have each introduced legislation imposing standards which are, in most respects, no more onerous than the standards under PIPEDA. The British Columbia Personal Information Protection Act will come into effect on January 1, 2004. The Alberta bill is also expected to be in force by January 1, 2004. The federal cabinet has not yet addressed whether any provincial legislation is 'substantially similar' within the meaning of PIPEDA.

Fair Information Practices under PIPEDA

PIPEDA is based upon ten principles of fair information practices, forming ground rules for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information. The fundamental premise of PIPEDA is that an organization can collect, use and disclose personal information as long as its purpose is reasonable in the context of the organization's business and the organization has obtained the informed consent of the individual to whom the information relates. Informed consent can be obtained formally or it can be implied from the circumstances, except where the information is sensitive, such as the financial or medical records of an individual. While previously collected information does not need to be re-collected, consent is required to continue to use or disclose that information after January 1, 2004.

Obligations under PIPEDA

January 1, 2004 will mark an important day for almost all commercial organizations in Ontario (and across Canada) that do not currently adhere to privacy principles in the collection, use or disclosure of personal information. PIPEDA will impose additional obligations upon organizations and every organization should be aware of the following requirements:

Drafting Policies and Procedures

• PIPEDA will require you to draft a privacy policy setting out how you deal with information that you collect, how the information is used, and to whom you disclose the information.

• You will be required to implement practices: (i) to ensure that personal information is properly safeguarded; (ii) to ensure that information in your custody is kept accurate and up-to-date (if the organization is making decisions based on such information); (iii) to receive and respond to complaints and inquiries; and (iv) to train your staff about the organization's obligations.

Designating a Privacy Officer

• You will be required to appoint an individual to deal with privacy matters. This person's responsibilities will include dealing with requests for access to information and with complaints relating to non-compliance with your privacy policy or PIPEDA.

Safeguarding Personal Information

• You will be required to protect personal information in your possession or control against loss, theft, unauthorized access, disclosure, copying, use and modification.

• Required safeguards include physical measures such as locking filing cabinets, organizational measures such as security clearances and technological measures such as encryption. More sensitive information such as financial and health information must be safeguarded by a higher level of protection.

Personal Information in the Control of a Third Party

• If you transfer personal information to a third party, you will need to ensure that the information is secure to avoid liability under PIPEDA. One way to protect yourself is by drafting appropriate protections into the contracts under which the information may be transferred, such as requiring the third party transferee to have in place similar privacy protection procedures and policies.

Data Retention

• You will be required to develop guidelines and to implement procedures with respect to the retention of personal information, including minimum and maximum retention periods. Personal information may only be kept for as long as it is required to satisfy the purpose for which it was collected.

Access to Personal Information

• You will be required to promptly respond to individuals' requests for access to their personal information. In most cases, PIPEDA imposes a thirty day maximum response time for meeting such requests.

Challenging Compliance

• You will be required to ensure that individuals who are assigned the task of responding to access requests, as well as any other staff member who may receive such requests, are properly trained. You must develop policies and procedures to receive and respond to complaints or inquiries about your policies and practices relating to the handling of personal information.

The content of this article does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on in that way. Specific advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions