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.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Who do our privacy laws protect? 

I was intereviewed by a New Brunswick journalist last week who was writing an article on how privacy laws can be used in a knee-jerk way to limit access to government information. The article, I expect, is a reaction to a number of stories out of NB where reporters were given the excuse of privacy laws to limit their access to information about potential high-risk offenders, the investigation of a motor vehicle accident that claimed a number of lives and public sector salaries.

Here is the bit that I contributed: - Who do our privacy laws protect?

Governments must protect citizens' public information [note: I'm sure I said "private information"] while still being accountable and transparent to the public, said David Fraser, a privacy lawyer with the Atlantic Canadian law firm McInnes-Cooper.

For example, the expenses for a cabinet minister's trip to Europe would likely be made public. However, a doctor's billing records, which would essentially reveal their salary, are only made available in some provinces, he said.

And although some form of privacy legislation has existed federally for quite some time, that doesn't mean the laws regulate every activity on the internet.

"It regulates commercial activities. So it says what information your bank can ask about you and what it can do with it, or your local video store," said Fraser. "But if an individual takes a picture of another person on their camera phone in embarrassing circumstances and then they post it on the Internet that's a personal use, not a commercial use, so that's not caught by that law." There are some circumstances where personal information can be released. For example, if an individual gives consent.

As well, personal information can be disclosed if it's deemed to be for the greater good of the public.

"I think people, just as a knee-jerk reaction, they say no - it's personal information," said Fraser.

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