Canada: Privacy @ Gowlings - May 2006

Last Updated: May 10 2006

Edited by E. Michael Power


  • Alberta: Beauty Shop Fails to Protect Card Data
  • B.C.: Amendment of PIPA
  • B.C.: FOIPPA & PATRIOT Act Amendments
  • B.C.: PIPA Employee Hiring Guide Issued by Privacy Commissioner
  • Data Storage Firm Apologizes for Loss of Railroad Data Tapes
  • Government Travel Cards Linked to Privacy Threat
  • Korea: Online Communities to Be Monitored
  • Study: U.S. More Advanced Than Europe in Privacy Practices
  • Supreme Court of Canada Offers Views on Privacy in Access Decision
  • Unisys Global Study: Consumers Would Relinquish Some Privacy for Convenience

Alberta: Beauty Shop Fails to Protect Card Data

An Information and Privacy Commissioner investigation found that Monarch Beauty Supply improperly disposed of over 2600 customer receipts by placing them in a dumpster. The Alberta business failed to protect personal information from identity thieves. As a result, the documents containing personal information were disclosed to unauthorized individuals, and in one known instance, this information was used fraudulently. Those customers’ sales receipts which cannot be accounted for remain at risk of fraud.

Full text of investigative report is available at:

B.C.: Amendment of PIPA

Bill 30, the second Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act of 2006, was introduced on April 27 by Attorney General Wally Oppal. Among the statutes amended is the Personal Information Protection Act.

"These amendments will permit the collection, use and disclosure of third party personal information without the consent of the third party when the information is necessary to provide services such as medical, counselling or legal to an individual who is the source of the third party information. It will also permit a lawyer to refuse access to personal information where a solicitor’s lien for non-payment of legal fees is in place."

Full text of press release is available at:

Text of amendments are available at:

B.C.: FOIPPA & PATRIOT Act Amendments

Bill 30, the second Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act of 2006, was introduced on 27 April by Attorney General Wally Oppal. Among the statutes amended is the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA).

"These amendments will increase openness, with proactive public disclosure of joint solutions procurement contract information, while protecting commercially sensitive information. It will permit limited and temporary trans-border access of personal information in special circumstances necessary for system maintenance or when an employee is travelling outside of Canada and needs access to information.

It will ensure transparency for the uses of personal health information within health information banks by requiring the publishing of summaries on a public online directory."

Full text of press release is available at:

Text of amendments are available at:

B.C.: PIPA Employee Hiring Guide Issued by Privacy Commissioner

"PIPA requires every organization to have policies on how the organization will meet its obligations under PIPA to protect personal information, including employee personal information. It is good practice for employers to give their new employees a copy of the privacy policy or, at least, to tell new employees how to get a copy of the policy. It is also a good practice to train employees about their role in ensuring the policy is properly applied.

PIPA is still relatively new, since it came into force on January 1, 2004. The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia ("OIPC") continues to receive requests from employers for clarification of their responsibilities in relation to the hiring of new employees. This document answers questions we most frequently hear."

Full text of Guide is available at:

Data Storage Firm Apologizes for Loss of Railroad Data Tapes

A Boston data-storage firm apologized yesterday for losing personal data, including Social Security numbers, for thousands of Long Island Rail Road employees. The railroad is an Iron Mountain customer. The loss was discovered April 6 by an Iron Mountain driver when backup tapes with employees' personal data were being transferred between locations.

At risk are as many as 17,000 current or former railroad employees, according to a report in Newsday yesterday. The railroad described the incident in a statement issued Wednesday after it mailed letters to alert employees. According to the railroad, tapes with personal information were being delivered to its Queens, N.Y., offices from an Iron Mountain storage facility when the data loss occurred.

Full press report is available at:

Government Travel Cards Linked to Privacy Threat

Future government-issued travel documents may feature embedded computer chips that can be read at a distance of up to 30 feet, a top Homeland Security official said on April 18, creating what some fear would be a threat to privacy.

Jim Williams, director of the Department of Homeland Security's U.S.-VISIT program, told a smart card conference that such tracking chips could be inserted into the new generation of wallet-size identity cards used to ease travel by Americans to Canada and Mexico starting in 2008. Those chips use radio frequency identification technology, or RFID.

Williams' remarks at an industry conference are likely to heighten privacy concerns about RFID technology, which has drawn fire from activists and prompted hearings before the U.S. Congress and the Federal Trade Commission. One California politician has even introduced anti-RFID legislation.

Many of the privacy worries center on whether RFID tags--typically miniscule chips with an antenna a few inches long that can transmit a unique ID number--can be read from afar. If the range is a few inches, the privacy concerns are reduced. But at ranges of 30 feet, the tags could theoretically be read by hidden sensors alongside the road, in the mall or in the hands of criminals hoping to identify someone on the street by his or her ID number.

Full press report is available at:

Korea: Online Communities to Be Monitored

The South Korean government plans to monitor the nation's online communities every month to crack down on an increasing number of personal information dealers within the virtual world.

The Ministry of Information and Communication on Sunday said the targets of the monthly surveillance plan would be cyber cafes, and peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing sites.

As the governmnet pointed out, Internet clubs and P2P sites have been the playground for personal data dealers who gain private information like resident registration numbers, the Korean version of North American social security numbers.

The identity theft issue caught Korea, the most wired country on the planet, off guard in February, when complaints piled up that hackers were stealing private data from millions of Korean people.

Full press report is available at:

Study: U.S. More Advanced Than Europe in Privacy Practices

"A new study comparing European and U.S. corporate privacy practices reveals that while European companies impose tighter restrictions on the sharing of sensitive personal data, U.S. companies currently have more sophisticated systems in place to prevent breaches.

The study, sponsored by global law firm White & Case as part of its annual Global Privacy Symposium, which [was] held Thursday, April 27 in New York, was conducted by the independent privacy think tank Ponemon Institute. The study surveyed 47 U.S. and European multinationals on eight privacy practices, including privacy policy; communications and training; privacy management; data security methods; privacy compliance; choice and consent; cross-national standards; and redress. The survey questions were reviewed by two European data protection authorities, The Information Commissioner's Office of the U.K. and The Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL) in France.

European companies are much more likely to have privacy practices that restrict or limit the sharing of customer or employees' sensitive personal information and are also more likely to provide employees with choice or consent on how information is used or shared," said David Bender, head of White & Case's Global Privacy practice. "But the research also revealed that U.S. companies are engaging in more security and control-oriented compliance activities than their European counterparts. As a result, U.S. corporations scored higher in five of the eight areas of corporate privacy practice."

Full text of press release is available at:

Supreme Court of Canada Offers Views on Privacy in Access Decision

"A federal agency received a request under the Access to Information Act ("Access Act") for access to certain records pertaining to the respondent company, a third party within the meaning of the Act. The agency determined that some of the records might contain confidential business or scientific information, as described in s. 20(1) of the Act, and requested, pursuant to ss. 27 and 28, that the company make representations as to why the information should not be disclosed. The company submitted its representations and after reviewing them, the agency concluded that the records should be disclosed, subject to certain redactions. The company commenced a review proceeding pursuant to s. 44 of the Access Act and, in addition to the confidential business information exemption, sought to raise the personal information exemption set out in s. 19 of the Act. The application judge concluded that the company could raise the s. 19 exemption on a s. 44 review and ordered the severance of certain records containing personal information. The Federal Court of Appeal upheld the decision."

In rendering it’s decision that the appeal should be dismissed, the Court noted:

"It is apparent from the scheme and legislative histories of the Access Act and the Privacy Act that the combined purpose of the two statutes is to strike a careful balance between privacy rights and the right of access to information. However, within this balanced scheme, the Acts afford greater protection to personal information. By imposing stringent restrictions on the disclosure of personal information, Parliament clearly intended that no violation of privacy rights should occur. Where a third party becomes aware that a government institution intends to disclose a record containing personal information, nothing in the plain language of ss. 28, 44 and 51 of the Access Act prevents the third party from raising this concern by applying for review… An interpretation of s. 44 that forces an individual to wait until the personal information is disclosed and the damage is done, or that imposes an onerous burden on the person seeking to avert the harm, fails to give proper content to the right to privacy and also fails to satisfy the clear legislative goals underlying the Access Act and the Privacy Act. A narrow interpretation of s. 44 would weaken the protection of personal information and dilute the right to privacy."

Full text of decision is available at:

Unisys Global Study: Consumers Would Relinquish Some Privacy for Convenience

While privacy remains a major concern of people around the world, new research from Unisys Corporation debunks some of the traditional myths concerning protection and use of identity credentials. The results show that a majority of consumers would share personal data if they knew the end user will securely protect their information and they can perceive a clear benefit in convenience gained.

In the first global survey of its kind, the Unisys research also found that most consumers (71 per cent) worldwide are willing to have a multi-purpose identity credential that many organizations would accept to verify a person’s identity before providing access to secure records or locations.

The research also pointed to preferable methods of technology for identity verification, revealing that more than two-thirds (67 per cent) of consumers worldwide would support using biometrics such as voice recognition or fingerprints. When comparing biometrics to other security devices such as smartcards and tokens, 66 per cent also favored biometrics as the ideal method to combat fraud and identity theft.

The Ponemon Institute, a leading independent firm that specializes in privacy and security research, conducted the survey on behalf of Unisys.

Full text of press release is available at:

Summary of Study Results is available at:

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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