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.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

PIPEDA and elections or leadership campaigns 

M.J. Murphy (aka BigCityLib) asks whether Liberal Party leadership candidates Dion, Dryden and Brison violated PIPEDA by providing confidential party membership lists to the Globe & Mail, as reported by CTV (BigCityLib Strikes Back: Did Dion, Dryden, and Brison Violate Federal Law?). It's an interesting question, but one that is likely answered in the negative.

Of course, this isn't legal advice to anyone. Rather, it's just a discussion of the issues engaged by this report.

The reason is that PIPEDA likely does not apply to the core activities of political parties. Section 4 sets out where PIPEDA does and does not apply:


4. (1) This Part applies to every organization in respect of personal information that

(a) the organization collects, uses or discloses in the course of commercial activities; or

(b) is about an employee of the organization and that the organization collects, uses or discloses in connection with the operation of a federal work, undertaking or business.


(2) This Part does not apply to

(a) any government institution to which the Privacy Act applies;

(b) any individual in respect of personal information that the individual collects, uses or discloses for personal or domestic purposes and does not collect, use or disclose for any other purpose; or

(c) any organization in respect of personal information that the organization collects, uses or discloses for journalistic, artistic or literary purposes and does not collect, use or disclose for any other purpose.

It is likely a stretch to suggest that federal politics - all cynicism aside - is a "commercial activity", at least to the extent that it would trigger the federal government's general trade and commerce powers upon which PIPEDA relies for its jurisdiction.

Regarding the "disclosure" to the Globe to conduct an opinion poll, most practitioners in this area would say that it is not technically a disclosure. If the poll was being conducted on behalf of the candidate, the polling organization would be the agent for the candidate. (Unless the most recent finding from the Privacy Commissioner would deem their conduct to be a commercial activity in and of itself.) If the use by the Globe was for journalistic purposes, they're off the hook thanks to 4(2)(c).

This is not to suggest that the candiates are blameless. There's been some suggestion that providing the data to the Globe may have violated the conditions of confidentiality imposed by the Liberal party. If that's the case, there may be other remedies, but they wouldn't be within PIPEDA.


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