Alberta Privacy Law Update: PIPA Declared Invalid

In the case of Alberta (Information and Privacy Commissioner) v. United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 401, 2013 SCC 62, released last Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada has declared the Alberta Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) invalid in its entirety.

This case pits constitutional rights against privacy rights. The court reviewed a claim of privacy rights infringement arising from a long strike during which both the Union and the employer recorded and photographed individuals crossing the picketline. Some of those who were photographed crossing the picketline filed privacy complaints when the Union posted those pictures online.

As a consent-based privacy law, PIPA establishes a general requirement to obtain consent for any collection, use or disclosure of personal information. According to the court: “The central issue is whether PIPA achieves a constitutionally acceptable balance between the interests of individuals in controlling the collection, use and disclosure of their personal information and a union’s freedom of expression. PIPA does not include any mechanisms by which a union’s constitutional right to freedom of expression may be balanced with the interests protected by the legislation.” Thus, in the end, the entire Act has been declared constitutionally invalid, and in a unique way of avoiding a gap in the law, the court’s declaration has been suspended for 1 year, to allow the Alberta legislature to fix the law.

Stay tuned.

Calgary – 07:00 MST

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