Saturday, May 06, 2006

Noncommercial spam and PIPEDA

Alec Saunders, at is a little upset about receiving some unsolicited e-mail from the liberal party and Bill Graham (How to Stop the Liberal Party of Canada From Spamming You -- Alec Saunders .LOG):

Hypocrites that they are, by spamming me with Liberal propaganda, they’ve violated their own privacy policy. Their hypocrisy is further amplified by the fact that what they’ve done contradicts the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, section 4.2.4 which states:
When personal information that has been collected is to be used for a purpose not previously identified, the new purpose shall be identified prior to use. Unless the new purpose is required by law, the consent of the individual is required before information can be used for that purpose.

And here, of course, is the irony. It was a Liberal Government which introduced the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

Whether this is a violation of PIPEDA depends upon whether that law applies at all. PIPEDA only regulates the collection, use and disclosure of personal information in the course of commercial activities (and information about employees of federal works, undetakings and businesses). This generally excludes non-profits, like political parties. Some activities are deemed to be commercial, like the sale or trade of personal information by a non-profit organization.

It's arguable that PIPEDA wouldn't apply in the case of political spam, unless one organization has traded the e-mail address with another. But if it bugs you enough, complain to the Privacy Commissioner and see if she agrees...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the info. I didn't realize that non-profits were outside the scope of the legislation.

I wouldn't have been so incensed if they hadn't made me dig for the unsubscribe information. It just seems to be common courtesy to display that prominently.