Trucking company collects personal information intended for Canada Customs

PIPEDA Case Summary #2001-10

[Principle 4.4, Schedule 1]

Complaint

A dismissed employee complained that his former employer, an international trucking company, had improperly attempted to collect personal information by insisting that he complete and return to the company an application for a program instituted by the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA).

Summary of Investigation

The trucking company in question had sent the complainant, one of its international drivers,£a letter advising that he was required to complete a "Commercial Driver Registration Application" under the new Customs Self-Assessment Program instituted by the CCRA. This letter also advised that the driver was to return the completed application to the company itself. The complainant refused, not wishing his employer to have access to the personal information he was required to provide on the application. The company sent him a second letter ordering him to complete and return the application by a given date or else be disciplined under the collective agreement and have his employment placed in jeopardy. The complainant again did not comply, and the company terminated his employment five days after the given date. According to the company, the CCRA expected employers to gather applications and submit them to the CCRA on their drivers' behalf. In fact, the CCRA clearly instructs, on both the application form and the program pamphlet, that drivers submit their completed applications directly to the CCRA's processing centre in Niagara Falls.

Commissioner's Findings 

Issued August 17, 2001

Jurisdiction: As of January 1, 2001, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act applies to federal works, undertakings, or businesses. The Commissioner had jurisdiction in this case because interprovincial trucking companies are federal works, undertakings, or businesses as defined in the Act.

Application: Principle 4.4, Schedule 1, states that collection of personal information must be limited to that which is necessary for the purposes identified by the organization and that information must be collected by fair and lawful means.

The Commissioner determined that, although it was necessary for a driver to complete an application for the Customs Self-Assessment Program and return it to the CCRA, it was not necessary or appropriate for the company itself to collect the information. He also determined that threatening employees with loss of their jobs was not a fair means of collection. He found that the company was not in compliance with Principle 4.4.

The Commissioner noted that the company had been prompt in changing its policy so as no longer to require its drivers to return their applications to the company. Nevertheless, he did not consider the complaint to have been resolved, pending reinstatement of the complainant with the company and compensation for any damages. The Commissioner expressed his intention to pursue these matters with the company.

The Commissioner concluded that the complaint was well-founded.

Further Considerations

The complainant subsequently informed the Commissioner that a settlement regarding the termination of his employment had been reached through arbitration and that he considered the complaint to have thus been satisfactorily resolved.

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