Authorization Of A Class Action For Privacy Violations Granted In Quebec

As the amount of personal information available to and used by businesses continues to increase exponentially, protection of individual privacy is a rapidly spreading concern thanks in part to intensified media attention on security breaches and the ways in which personal information may be misused. A consequence has been a rise in privacy law class actions in North America. This trend has recently appeared in Quebec, where robust privacy laws and the possibility of punitive damages increase the risk of costly and time consuming litigation.

Different types of security violations can propel a privacy class action. Some are initiated after a security breach involving personal information, such the one recently filed in Quebec following the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization's (IIROC) breach in April 2013, which was widely reported by the provincial and national media. In this instance, an employee lost an unencrypted laptop containing the financial information of over 52 000 brokerage firm clients.

Other privacy class actions are challenging the models that digital service providers rely on to store, transmit or use personal information. An accusation that has most enraged consumers is that programs may not only store their personal information, they may also transmit the information to third-party businesses for targeted advertising purposes; all without prior consent, or even knowledge that it is being collected.

The most recent decision that is likely a precursor to litigation regarding new technologies and privacy law was an authorization for a class action against Apple and Apple Canada by the Quebec Superior Court on June 27th. The suit alleges that Apple has violated users' right to privacy by transmitting or allowing Apps to transmit private data to advertisers. The lawsuit mirrors those filed in the United States; all flow from a Wall Street Journal investigation. The court will consider whether Apple caused or facilitated the creation of personally identifiable profiles of Class Members, and whether they failed to disclose the tracking and compiling of information by the App.

What are the damages?

A major challenge for members in privacy class actions is proving their damages. The reality is that despite a privacy breach, courts may, in certain situations, find that there is no damage whatsoever and that monetary relief is not an appropriate remedy. We note that a number of class action privacy lawsuits in the U.S. have...

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