As a society, Canadians have long prided themselves in being more restrained in legal matters than our southern neighbour, the United States of America. Almost every significant personal information security breach in the U.S. is immediately followed by one or more class-action lawsuits in which affected individuals attempt to allege harm and seek compensation or other damages for the alleged harm.

However, the Canadian landscape may be changing and “victims” of breaches in Canada are now becoming more aggressive in taking action against organizations which experience such security breaches. When memory sticks containing personal information of 2.4 million voters were lost by Elections Ontario in early July 2012, only a few weeks later a province-wide class action lawsuit was filed against Elections Ontario. Early in 2013, another such proceeding was launched against the federal government after the loss of an external hard drive containing personal information collected as part of the Canada Student Loans Program (CSL) was reported in January. The time lapse between the announcement of the breach event and the filing of a class-action lawsuit could be measured in days, rather than weeks or months.

In the CSL breach, a hard drive containing the personal information of clients—including information such as students’ names, Social Insurance Numbers, dates of birth, contact information, information about the students’ parents and loan balances—was reported as missing. The lawsuit alleges, inter alia, that the personal information was maintained by the federal government in a careless and insecure manner which could result in the personal information being lost, taken or stolen and used in a manner to cause harm to the plaintiffs and that the government should have should have encrypted and secured its hard drives; drafted, adopted and maintained an adequate digital-information security policy contemplating the storage of information on an external hard drive; properly trained and supervised employees on the importance of protecting personal information, and conducted timely, ongoing checks, balances and/or reviews of data storage systems to determine if the personal information was being secured and protected.

The CSL class-action lawsuit is seeking the following relief: damages for breach of privacy and intrusion upon seclusion; breach of contract; breach of statutory duty; breach of trust, negligence and intentional breaches of privacy; damages pursuant to section 24(1) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; aggravated, punitive and exemplary damages; special damages; interest; a declaration that the Defendant is vicariously liable for the actions of its employee; costs, and such further and other relief as deemed just, equitable and appropriate in the circumstances.

Whatever the final results of these two cases may be, they reflect a growing risk for organizations. Where in the past a privacy breach may result in the expenditure of signification amounts of money to mitigate the breach—including notification to affected individuals and/or changes in systems and business practices)—in negative media attention and may have had an impact on customer retention, the growing appetite for class-action suits will drive additional financial risk to organizations. Even if the cases themselves are unsuccessful, the cost of litigating is an additional and unwelcome burden for organizations.

These cases underscore the importance that every organization must have a structured privacy program in place, properly train employees of their respective privacy responsibilities and ensure that the appropriate security processes are in place to mitigate the reasonably foreseeable technical and physical risks to personal information.

Written By



If you want to comment on this post, you need to login.


Board of Directors

See the esteemed group of leaders shaping the future of the IAPP.

Contact Us

Need someone to talk to? We’re here for you.

IAPP Staff

Looking for someone specific? Visit the staff directory.

Learn more about the IAPP»

Daily Dashboard

The day’s top stories from around the world

Privacy Perspectives

Where the real conversations in privacy happen

The Privacy Advisor

Original reporting and feature articles on the latest privacy developments

Privacy Tracker

Alerts and legal analysis of legislative trends

Privacy Tech

Exploring the technology of privacy

Canada Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top Canadian privacy news

Europe Data Protection Digest

A roundup of the top European data protection news

Asia-Pacific Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from the Asia-Pacific region

Latin America Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from Latin America

IAPP Westin Research Center

Original works. Groundbreaking research. Emerging scholars.

Get more News »

Find a KnowledgeNet Chapter Near You

Network and talk privacy at IAPP KnowledgeNet meetings, taking place worldwide.

Women Leading Privacy

Events, volunteer opportunities and more designed to help you give and get career support and expand your network.

IAPP Job Board

Looking for a new challenge, or need to hire your next privacy pro? The IAPP Job Board is the answer.

Join the Privacy List

Have ideas? Need advice? Subscribe to the Privacy List. It’s crowdsourcing, with an exceptional crowd.

Find more ways to Connect »

Find a Privacy Training Class

Two-day privacy training classes are held around the world. See the complete schedule now.

Online Privacy Training

Build your knowledge. The privacy know-how you need is just a click away.

The Training Post—Can’t-Miss Training Updates

Subscribe now to get the latest alerts on training opportunities around the world.

New Web Conferences Added!

See our list of upcoming web conferences. Just log on, listen in and learn!

Train Your Staff

Get your team up to speed on privacy by bringing IAPP training to your organization.

Learn more »

CIPP Certification

The global standard for the go-to person for privacy laws, regulations and frameworks

CIPM Certification

The first and only privacy certification for professionals who manage day-to-day operations

CIPT Certification

The industry benchmark for IT professionals worldwide to validate their knowledge of privacy requirements

Certify Your Staff

Find out how you can bring the world’s only globally recognized privacy certification to a group in your organization.

Learn more about IAPP certification »

Get Close-up

Looking for tools and info on a hot topic? Our close-up pages organize it for you in one easy-to-find place.

Where's Your DPA?

Our interactive DPA locator helps you find data protection authorities and summary of law by country.

IAPP Westin Research Center

See the latest original research from the IAPP Westin fellows.

Looking for Certification Study Resources?

Find out what you need to prepare for your exams

More Resources »

GDPR Comprehensive: Spots Going Fast

With the top minds in the field leading this exceptional program, it's no wonder it's filling quickly. Register now to secure your spot.

Be Part of Something Big: Join the Summit

Registration is open for the Global Privacy Summit 2016. Discounted early bird rates available for a short time, register today!

Data Protection Intensive Returns to London

Registration is now open for the IAPP Europe Data Protection Intensive in London. Check out the program!

P.S.R. Call for Speakers Open!

P.S.R. is THE privacy + cloud security event of the year, and you can take a leading role. Propose a session for this year's program.

Sponsor an Event

Increase visibility for your organization—check out sponsorship opportunities today.

Exhibit at an Event

Put your brand in front of the largest gatherings of privacy pros in the world. Learn more.

More Conferences »

Become a Member

Start taking advantage of the many IAPP member benefits today

Corporate Members

See our list of high-profile corporate members—and find out why you should become one, too

Renew Your Membership

Don’t miss out for a minute—continue accessing your benefits

Join the IAPP»