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Slaw: Adjudicator decides Legal Aid Society a not-for-profit subject to PIPA

On February 11, 2013, an adjudicator of the Alberta Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner decided that Alberta’s Legal Aid Society is subject to the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA), with consequences for all non-profit organizations that conduct activities with a commercial character. Alberta’s PIPA came into force on January 1, 2004, and governs the collection, use and disclosure of personal information in the private sector. The Act applies to organizations, including corporations, unincorporated associations, partnerships and individuals acting in a commercial capacity. The purpose of the Act is to balance the individual’s right to privacy and the reasonable interests of organizations in collecting, using and disclosing personal information.

So how does PIPA apply to the Legal Aid Society?

This case involves an applicant who sought the assistance of the Alberta Legal Aid Society in 2008 and 2011. He was denied legal representation both times, but was provided with limited advice and referral information in 2011.

On October 3, 2011, the applicant made a written access-to-information request to Legal Aid for all computer-generated or written notes, information and instructions shared internally and externally regarding his requests to secure legal assistance from Legal Aid Alberta.

To assess whether Legal Aid dealt with the applicant’s access to information requests properly, the Office of Information and Privacy Commissioner had first to determine if PIPA applied to the organization.

At issue was whether the Legal Aid Society is a “non-profit organization” under PIPA, and, if so, whether it collected, used and/or disclosed the applicant’s personal information in connection with a commercial activity as defined in the Act.

For more, read my latest post on Slaw.

Yosie Saint-Cyr
First Reference Managing Editor

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Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B., Managing Editor

Managing Editor at First Reference
Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B., is a trained lawyer called to the Quebec bar in 1988 and is still a member in good standing. She practised business, employment and labour law until 1999. For over 18 years, Yosie has been the Managing Editor of the following publications, Human Resources Advisor, Human Resources PolicyPro, HRinfodesk and Accessibility Standards PolicyPro from First Reference. Read more
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