Monday, May 08, 2006

Geist on the Heinz decision

Michael Geist's latest Law Bytes article in the Toronto Star addresses the recent Heinz decision from the Supreme Court of Canada (see: The Canadian Privacy Law Blog: New Supreme Court of Canada decision considers privacy aspects of Access to Information Act review procedure). Here's an extract: - Supreme court tips its hand on privacy:

"A divided court ultimately sided with the company by ruling that privacy considerations were too important to be left out. The majority of the judges feared that once the personal information was disclosed, the only recourse would be to launch a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. That option was viewed as insufficient, with the court candidly concluding that 'the Privacy Commissioner and the Information Commissioner are of little help because, with no power to make binding orders, they have no teeth.'

Indeed, the court had little confidence in the complaints mechanism, which it viewed as inadequate because 'the Privacy Commissioner has no authority to issue decisions binding on the government institution or the party contesting the disclosure. Nor does the Commissioner have an injunctive power which would allow it to stay the disclosure of information pending the outcome of an investigation.'

In other words, the current framework simply does not provide adequate privacy protection.

Given the importance of privacy -- the majority characterized the Privacy Act as 'quasi-constitutional' because of the role privacy plays in the preservation of a free and democratic society -- the court was unwilling to allow for a potential privacy breach with little prospect for subsequent protection."

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