This morning, the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in Royal Bank of Canada v. Trang, 2016 SCC 50 (Trang), overturning the reasoning of two decisions of the Ontario Court of Appeal. In the SCC’s view, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, S.C. 2000 c. 5 (“PIPEDA”) does not preclude a mortgagee from producing a mortgage discharge statement to a judgment creditor. The unanimous decision, written by Justice Côté, concluded that such disclosure was in accordance with an order made by a court or, alternatively, that the mortgagors had provided implied consent.
The leak of the confidential files of a Panamanian law firm, dubbed the “Panama Papers,” has generated much press coverage, but there has been surprisingly little comment about the privacy rights of those named in, or linked to, the disclosures. It seems obvious that the public exposure of the personal information (“PI”) contained in the documents that were unlawfully obtained by an anonymous hacker raises serious privacy concerns for those individuals who are named. In fact, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (“ICIJ”) and other media outlets could well be facing regulatory complaints or even tort claims for unauthorized use of PI and/or invasion of privacy under Canadian law. If so, the release of PI by ICIJ members could qualify as the largest intentional privacy breach ever made in Canada by an identifiable entity.