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April 28, 2011

PIPEDA amendments broaden powers of Privacy Commissioner

The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) is the federal privacy law for the private sector. It applies to the collection, use and disclosure of personal information by an organization in the course of commercial activity.

In December 2010, Parliament passed amendments to the legislation, which was originally passed in 2000. The amendments, which were included in legislation to curb unwanted commercial solicitation by e-mail or other electronic formats (also known as spam), also broaden certain powers of the Privacy Commissioner.

In particular, the amendments give the Commissioner more discretion over which complaints she undertakes or completes. The change will permit the Office to maximize the use of its resources when investigating complaints that allege contraventions of PIPEDA. For instance, the Commissioner can decline to investigate a complaint that could more appropriately be dealt with through other avenues.

Under the amendments, the Commissioner is also empowered to share information related to an investigation with counterparts in the provinces or abroad. The objective is to facilitate investigations that have inter-provincial or international implications.

Most of the amendments were proclaimed into force on April 1, 2011. However, the amended sections 7.1, 12(2), 12.2(2) and 20(6) will only come into force as part of the overall anti-spam law.

For more information, please visit our Legal Corner. PIPEDA can be viewed on the Justice Canada website at, with the amendments available here:

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