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Supreme Court issues new interpretation upsetting established protocol for obtaining internet service subscriber information

By Tim Banks

On 13 June 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a landmark decision (R v Spencer) upsetting a common interpretation of a provision of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) that had been relied upon for many years as permitting pre-warrant disclosures of subscriber information by internet service providers and other organisations in response to police requests.

The provision at issue was paragraph 7(3)(c.1) of PIPEDA, which provides that an organisation may disclose personal information without the knowledge or consent of the individual if (a) the government institution (which includes law enforcement) has made a request for the information, (b) the government institution has identified its lawful authority and (c) the disclosure falls within one of the following specified categories…

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