April 18 2011 - A toast to privacy – and the infinite complexity of reasonability
The concept of reasonableness and the so-called “refusal to deal” provisions are two fundamental concepts of Canadian privacy law that work in conjunction to establish limits on the types of personal information that organizations can collect in order to provide a product or service.
These concepts can be quite challenging to apply in practice; although, several years of commissioner and court findings provide a significant degree of guidance. In this issue of PrivacyScan, Murray Long looks at two recent cases involving these provisions – one from B.C., and the other Alberta. The B.C. case involves a policy of a multinational company providing food and beverage services in airports across North America to request identification before serving alcoholic beverages, regardless of a person’s apparent age. This practice was found to be unreasonable, and the company has since changed its policy in Canada so that ID is no longer requested whenever a customer appears to be over 30.
Another potentially more troubling case is Leon’s v. Alberta. In this case the Alberta Court of Appeal held that Leon’s policy of recording driver’s license information and license plate numbers from customers when picking up merchandise for the purposes of protecting against fraud is reasonable under the Alberta Personal Information Protection Act. Murray highlights a number of potential shortcomings with the Court of Appeal’s decision, which seems to run contrary to how Canadian privacy legislation has been applied by commissioners and courts throughout the past decade.