Skurka's Spin: Court decision 'marked stellar day for privacy'
Steven Skurka, CTV Legal Analyst
Published Monday, January 23, 2012 7:22AM EST
It is incredible to consider the amount of personal and sensitive information about our daily lives that is captured and stored in electronic databases.
This includes our banking, shopping and travel records, the medicine we order, the hospital procedures and medical tests we undergo and the nature of our repeated communication and correspondence by cell phone, e-mail or text message.
We correctly assume that all of this information retained on the Internet and on digital technology is private. But is there a legal remedy available if our privacy is breached?
What recourse is there if a curious employer, a rogue investigator, a snoopy neighbour or an angry former spouse hacks into any of the the various databases and accesses this highly personal information?
The Ontario Court of Appeal forcefully decided in a landmark decision last week that a legal claim may arise in circumstances where there has been a deliberate and significant invasion of personal privacy.
In the lawsuit considered in the Court of Appeal judgment, a Bank of Montreal employee admitted to snooping on the banking records of a fellow employee who was previously married to her common-law partner. The snooping occurred almost two hundred times over a period of several years. The Court of Appeal found a breach of privacy (the legal term is a claim for intrusion upon seclusion) and awarded a modest amount of damages of $10,000.
This bold decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal introduced for the first time in Canada a welcome protection for privacy rights and served notice on hackers and snoopers that they may be civilly liable if they persist in their surreptitious practices. It marked a stellar day for privacy.