Understanding Ontario's civil privacy rights: Reasonable Doubt

September 13, 2018
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From NOW Magazine's Reasonable Doubt column: On August 23, 2018, the Supreme Court of Canada announced that it would not hear an appeal from the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) in TREB's long-running legal battle against the federal Commissioner of Competition. As a result of this decision, TREB can no longer prevent the dissemination of listing and sold price data for properties in Toronto.

One of TREB's primary (and ultimately unsuccessful) arguments against the release of this data related to what TREB characterized as the privacy interests of the individual purchasers and sellers of property. Specifically, TREB argued that the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which prohibits companies from distributing the personal information of their customers without their customers' consent, applied to prevent the distribution of this data. In dismissing this argument, the Federal Court of Appeal, which made the decisionthat TREB was seeking to appeal further to the Supreme Court, noted that purchasers and sellers had consented to the distribution of this information when they signed their respective agreements with TREB agents and brokerages. The court also noted that the way in which TREB had raised this issue made it appear to be after-the-fact justification for anticompetitive behaviour, rather than a legitimate concern on the part of TREB.

While PIPEDA, and the privacy rights protected by PIPEDA, did not apply to prevent the distribution of listing and sold price data in this case, it is worth considering what PIPEDA does protect. Broadly speaking, PIPEDA applies to organizations (both commercial and governmental) that collect personal information in the course of carrying on their respective activities. PIPEDA sets out restrictions on the use and disclosure of such personal information, and prescribes limited circumstances in which a person’s personal information can be used or disclosed without the consent of the person.

Read more: Understanding Ontario's civil privacy rights: Reasonable Doubt