The Globe and Mail reports that the Canada Revenue Agency has won a federal court order requiring eBay Canada to turn over the names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of all high-volume sellers on the popular website. The CRA wants to find out whether those individuals or companies are reporting the income they made from online sales in 2004 and 2005.
The court's view of the ease with which data crosses borders is certainly noteworthy. It comments that:
"information cannot truly be said to "reside" only in one place or be "owned" by only one person. The reality is that the information is readily and instantaneously available to those within the group of eBay entities in a variety of places. It is irrelevant where the electronically-stored information is located…"
While the court is technically right that eBay has access to the data, this raises significant privacy concerns given that many privacy policies are based on the premise that it does matter where information is located. This decision provides a sobering reminder that when law enforcement or government authorities demand personal information – wherever located – companies will often face little alternative but to comply.