Later this month, the Federal Court of Canada will hear a case in Halifax that threatens Canada's privacy law framework. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. is contesting the constitutional validity of Canada's private sector privacy legislation (PIPEDA), arguing it oversteps the federal government's jurisdictional power. My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) argues that if successful, PIPEDA would no longer apply to thousands of Canadian businesses and new legislation such as the Electronic Commerce Protection Act (ECPA) would be imperilled.
The case stems from a dispute over an insurance claim arising from a March 2005 automobile accident. Gerald Gaudet, the injured party, asked State Farm to provide copies of all names, addresses, and phone numbers of anyone to whom it disclosed his personal information (State Farm had used a private investigator to conduct surveillance on Gaudet). After State Farm refused to disclose the information, Gaudet filed a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
The Privacy Commissioner proceeded to launch an investigation into the case, asking State Farm to provide it with the requested information. The insurance company again refused, leading to the Federal Court case.