The Canadian Privacy Law Blog: Developments in privacy law and writings of a Canadian privacy lawyer, containing information related to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (aka PIPEDA) and other Canadian and international laws.

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The author of this blog, David T.S. Fraser, is a Canadian privacy lawyer who practices with the firm of McInnes Cooper. He is the author of the Physicians' Privacy Manual. He has a national and international practice advising corporations and individuals on matters related to Canadian privacy laws.

For full contact information and a brief bio, please see David's profile.

Please note that I am only able to provide legal advice to clients. I am not able to provide free legal advice. Any unsolicited information sent to David Fraser cannot be considered to be solicitor-client privileged.

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The views expressed herein are solely the author's and should not be attributed to his employer or clients. Any postings on legal issues are provided as a public service, and do not constitute solicitation or provision of legal advice. The author makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained herein or linked to. Nothing herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel.

This web site is presented for informational purposes only. These materials do not constitute legal advice and do not create a solicitor-client relationship between you and David T.S. Fraser. If you are seeking specific advice related to Canadian privacy law or PIPEDA, contact the author, David T.S. Fraser.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Comment: Are Privacy Policies Unenforceable and Meaningless? 

In a blog entry from last week, the chief privacy officer of Plaxo responded to an article written by David Coursey (""Beware of 'Free' Services") that suggests companies may break their privacy promises when they become desperate for money or a new owner arrives on the scene. Plaxo's principal product is a service to keep your contacts up to date, so it collects a fair amount of personal information.

Plaxo's Personal Card: Are Privacy Policies Unenforceable and Meaningless?


The fact is promises made within privacy policies are enforceable, specifically by the FTC. People may be familiar with Section 5 of the FTC Act, which declares "unfair or deceptive acts" are declared unlawful. The FTC has demonstrated in the past that an organization's failure to live up to published privacy practices are considered "unfair or deceptive" and the FTC has taken corrective action to protect consumers in these cases.

In the case of Plaxo, our Plaxo Privacy Policy sums up our privacy practices within the following principles:

  • Your Information is your own and you decide who will have access to it.
  • You maintain ownership rights to Your Information, even if there is a business transition or policy change.
  • You may add, delete, or modify Your Information at any time.
  • Plaxo will not update or modify Your Information without your permission.
  • Plaxo will not sell, exchange, or otherwise share Your Information with third parties, unless required by law or in accordance with your instructions.
  • Plaxo does not send spam, maintain spam mailing lists, or support the activities of spammers.


But the question remains, can't an organization simply change their privacy policy at any time?

The answer is yes, but the FTC Act also covers material changes to privacy policies. In speaking with an FTC official at a recent IAPP/TRUSTe Privacy Symposium, I was told the FTC operates under the concept that "a privacy policy walks with the information". In the recent case between the FTC and Gateway Learning, Howard Beales, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, summed it up by stating, "You can change the rules but not after the game has been played." I direct you to the FTC site for more information:


9/06/2004 06:19:00 AM  :: (1 comments)  ::  Backlinks
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