Commissioner welcomes Supreme Court decision recognizing the importance of protecting young people's privacy
Federal Privacy Commissioner says the Supreme Court decision in A.B. v. Bragg Communications means Canadian children and youth who are victims of cyberbullying can now seek recourse before the courts anonymously.
OTTAWA, October 1, 2012 – Canadian children and youth who have been the victims of cyberbullying will now have the opportunity to seek recourse in court without sacrificing their privacy says Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Jennifer Stoddart.
In a unanimous decision handed down on September 27, 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that a 15-year-old girl, who became the victim of sexualized cyberbullying when someone set up a fake Facebook profile using a variation of her name, can proceed anonymously in her efforts to find out the identity of the cyberbully.
The Court’s decision noted that granting the applicant anonymity would cause minimal harm to press freedom and to the open courts principle. The Court also held that it is not necessary for a victim to provide specific evidence of harm suffered because it is “logical to infer that children can suffer harm through cyberbullying.”
“Victims willing to go to court face the extremely daunting prospect that, because information can now live on forever on the Internet, it can follow them around for the rest of their lives,” says Commissioner Stoddart. “This decision shows that the courts understand the realities of today’s technology and society, and that they will not allow those who seek justice to be re-victimized.”
The Supreme Court of Canada granted the Office of the Privacy Commissioner leave to intervene in the case on behalf of the appellant. The Office argued that privacy must be balanced with the open courts principle, particularly given the context of cyberbullying.
The Privacy Commissioner of Canada is mandated by Parliament to act as an ombudsman and guardian of privacy in Canada. The Commissioner enforces two federal laws for the protection of personal information: the Privacy Act, which applies to the federal public sector; and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which applies to commercial activities in the Atlantic provinces, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Territories. Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia each have their own law covering the private sector. Even in these provinces, PIPEDA continues to apply to the federally regulated private sector and to personal information in interprovincial and international transactions.
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