Privacy & Access to Information

Personal information is a sensitive and often valuable commodity. Governments, businesses, societies, not-for-profit organizations and trade unions collect, use and disclose various amounts of personal information during the course of their normal business operations while some businesses focus solely on the use or sale of the personal information they collect as the core component of their operations.

Technology has made it a lot easier to collect, store, compile, process, and cross-reference vast quantities of information. As a result, marketing and customer service have become more efficient and customer-focused. However, many individuals have become concerned about the erosion of their personal privacy and the misuse of their personal information. Various levels of government have responded to these concerns by enacting complex and far-reaching legislation aimed at protecting and regulating how personal information is collected, used and disclosed by business, not-for-profit organizations and government.

The Davis LLP Privacy Law Compliance Practice Group provides advice to clients in Canada regarding compliance with public and private sector privacy and freedom of information laws. We also advise on the impact of Canadian privacy laws on non-Canadian-based clients, and assist with consideration of U.S. and international privacy laws that affect our Canadian clients. We help organizations comply with all levels of privacy legislation.

Our Privacy Compliance Program is designed to:

  • Assist organizations and their governing boards to comply with legal requirements and to develop best practices in privacy matters;
  • Minimize an organization's exposure to legal liability and reputational risk; and
  • Provide ongoing practical and effective advice on privacy matters.

We also provide the following services:

Risk Management: Avoiding problems through proactive steps

  • Advising on changes to existing policies, procedures and documents necessitated by privacy laws
  • Preparing new privacy policies and codes as well as operational guidelines and procedures
  • Providing privacy training for an organization's employees and privacy law briefing for an organization's Board
  • Reviewing an organization's insurance coverage to determine whether it would cover civil damages liability and defence costs arising from violation of privacy laws
  • Advising and assisting with the preparation of documents designed to communicate the organization's personal information practices and procedures to employees, customers and third parties
  • Advising and assisting with the development of a dispute resolution process designed to minimize complaints to a Privacy Commissioner
  • Providing ongoing information regarding changes and developments in the regulation of privacy matters.

Counsel and Representation: Managing problems and minimizing negative effects

  • Providing timely, confidential and practical counsel on specific privacy issues as they arise within an organization
  • Providing advice and representation with respect to complaints made to a Privacy Commissioner and during any resulting audits, investigations or court actions
  • Advising clients on making, receiving and responding to freedom of information access requests.

Emerging Issues

Staying informed of this evolving landscape enables us to provide appropriate and accurate counsel.

  • Privacy legislation is being amended to mandate official reporting by organizations of information security breaches in certain circumstances.
  • Organizations need to develop protocols for handling information security breaches before they occur
  • The increasing use of biometrics (e.g., the use of voice recognition software, or handprint or iris scan technology) by employers is giving rise to privacy concerns
  • Video surveillance on private and public property is also giving rise to privacy concerns
  • Recent cases addressing employee drug testing programs are being determined by reference to privacy law issues

We created our bulletin "Have You Protected Your Customer's Privacy?" to help clients identify potential risks of non-compliance.

Leadership

Tamara Hunter, head of the Davis LLP Privacy Law Compliance Group, is at the forefront of privacy law in Canada. She has:

  • spoken at the Canadian Institute Conference "Western Forum on Privacy Law & Compliance"  (Calgary, January 2011)
  • appeared by invitation before the B.C. Special Legislative Committee conducting a review of the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act. (June 2004)
  • served as founding member and past  co-chair of the Canadian Bar Association (B.C. Branch) Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section
  • conducted numerous seminars on privacy law for the private sector, including the Vancouver Board of Trade Crime Task Force.
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