Your Privacy Rights
From January 1, 2004, all businesses engaged in commercial activities must comply with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. The PIPED Act is new legislation implemented by the federal government to protect the privacy of Canadians in the private sector. It sets out ground rules for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information. It ensures that an organization’s legitimate need for personal information can be balanced with the privacy rights of individuals. The Act gives you rights concerning the privacy of your personal information.
PIPEDA in a Nutshell
Organizations can use or disclose people’s personal information only for the purpose for which they gave consent.
Even with consent, the organization has to limit its collection, use, and disclosure of personal information to purposes that a reasonable person would consider appropriate in the circumstances.
Individuals have the right to see the personal information that an organization holds about them, and to correct any inaccuracies
There’s oversight, through the Commissioner and the Office, to ensure that the law is respected, and redress if people’s rights are violated.
Individuals should also be assured that specific safeguards will protect their information, including measures such as locked cabinets, computer passwords or encryption.
These obligations extend to lawyers and law firms, including Ferguson Barristers. We recognize the importance of privacy and the sensitivity of personal information. PIPEDA defines personal information as “information about an identifiable individual” that includes any factual or subjective information, recorded or not, in any form. For example, the following would be considered personal information:
Name, address, telephone number, gender
Identification numbers, income or blood type
Credit records, loan records, existence of a dispute between a consumer and a merchant, and intentions to acquire goods or services.
Under PIPEDA personal information does not include the name, business title, business address, or business telephone of any employee, i.e. information on a business card.
Why does Ferguson Barristers LLP need personal information and what information do we collect?
Ferguson Barristers provides legal services to a wide range of clients. In doing so, we may require personal information about our clients in order to protect your rights and to gain success in your legal action. Personal information is any information that identifies you, or by which your identity could be deduced. If we did not collect and use your personal information we could not provide you with legal services.
How do we collect your personal information?
We collect information only by lawful and fair means and not in an unreasonably intrusive way. Wherever possible we collect your personal information directly from you, at the start of a retainer and in the course of our representation.
Sometimes we may obtain information about you from other sources: for example,
Your insurance company
A real estate agent in a property matter
From a government agency or registry
Your employer, if we are acting for you, at its request
Your Doctor, Hospital or other Health Practitioner
In most cases, we shall ask you to specifically consent, if we collect, use, or disclose your personal information. Normally, we ask for your consent in writing, but in some circumstances, we may accept your oral consent. Sometimes, your consent may be implied through your conduct with us.
Use of Your Information
We use your personal information to provide legal advice and services to you, to administer our client (time and billing databases) activities.
Ferguson Barristers does not disclose your personal information to any third party to enable them to market their products and services. For example, we do not provide our client mailing lists to other law firms.
Disclosure of your Personal Information
Under certain circumstances, Ferguson Barristers will disclose your personal information:
When we are required or authorized by law to do so, for example if a court issues a subpoena
When you have consented to the disclosure
When the legal services we are providing to you requires us to give your information to third parties (for example a lender in a real estate mortgage transaction) your consent will be implied, unless you tell us otherwise
Where it is necessary to establish or collect fees
If we engage expert witnesses on your behalf
If the information is already publicly known
Updating Your Information
Since we use your personal information to provide legal services to you, it is important that the information be accurate and up-to-date. If during the course of the retainer, any of your information changes, please inform us so that we can make any necessary changes.
Is My Personal Information Secure?
Ferguson Barristers takes all reasonable precautions to ensure that your personal information is kept safe from loss, unauthorized access, modification or disclosure. Among the steps taken to protect your information are:
Restricted file access to personal information
Deploying technological safeguards like security software and firewalls to prevent hacking or unauthorized computer access
Internal password and security policies
Access to Your Personal Information
You may ask for access to any personal information we hold about you. Summary information is available on request. More detailed requests which require archive or other retrieval costs may be subject to our normal professional and disbursement fees.
If Ferguson Barristers holds information about you and you can establish that it is not accurate, complete and up-to-date, Ferguson Barristers will take reasonable steps to correct it.
Can I be Denied Access to My Personal Information?
Your rights to access your personal information are not absolute.
We may deny access when:
Denial of access is required or authorized by law (for example, when a record containing personal information about you is subject to a claim of legal professional privilege by one of our clients)
Information relates to existing or anticipated legal proceedings against you
When granting you access would have an unreasonable impact on other people’s privacy
When to do so would prejudice negotiations with you
To protect our firm’s rights and property
Where the request is frivolous or vexatious
If we deny your request for access to, or refuse a request to correct information, we shall explain why. Ferguson Barristers does not use your Social Insurance Number as a way of identifying or organizing the information we hold upon you.
Can I request anonymity?
Whenever it is legal and practical, we may offer the opportunity to deal with general inquiries without providing your name (for example, by accessing general information on our website). The Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act requires us to confirm the identity of all new clients. It may also require us to disclose information to FINTRAC in relation to certain large cash transactions.
To help us make credit decisions about clients, prevent fraud, check the identity of new clients and prevent money laundering, we may on occasion, request information about you from the files of consumer reporting agencies.
Communicating with Us
You should be aware that e-mail is not a 100% secure medium, and you should be aware of this when contacting us to send personal or confidential information.
If you apply to Ferguson Barristers for a job, we need to consider your personal information, as part of our review process. We normally retain information from candidates after a decision has been made, unless you ask us not to retain the information. If we offer you a job, which you accept, the information will be retained in accordance with our privacy procedures for employee records.
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The Privacy Commissioner of Canada
112 Kent Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 1H3