Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian issues seminal Order to cease collecting detailed personal information from individuals selling used goods, and to destroy all existing records

    TORONTO, Sept. 12 /CNW/ - Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner
Ann Cavoukian - invoking for the first time a cease collection and destroy
records provision in Ontario privacy laws - today ordered the City of Ottawa
and the Ottawa Police to stop collecting extensive personal information from
individuals selling used goods to second-hand stores. She also ordered the
destruction of all personal information already collected.
    Her cease and desist Order follows an investigation into a privacy
complaint the Commissioner received in the wake of the Court of Appeal ruling
in the Cash Converters case in July. That ruling struck down portions of a
City of Oshawa bylaw that had required used-goods retailers to collect
extensive personal information from all customers seeking to sell second-hand
goods. Key sections of the Ottawa bylaw are similar to those of the Oshawa
bylaw that was recently struck down by the Court.
    "I have decided to issue this Order because of the compelling privacy
issues at stake in this case, as well as the clear direction provided by the
Court of Appeal for Ontario in Cash Converters," said the Commissioner.
    In her Order, the Commissioner cites representations made to her by the
Ottawa Police regarding Business Watch International (BWI), a Regina-based
company that developed software that used goods stores can use to send
detailed personal information of sellers directly to BWI. The company
maintains a large electronic database on behalf of the Ottawa Police that
includes more than a quarter-of-a-million used good transactions, involving
more than 44,000 identifiable individuals.
    "In my view," said Commissioner Cavoukian, "the creation and maintenance
of this database constitutes a grave infringement to the privacy rights of
individuals. The police are not required to obtain a warrant or demonstrate
any suspicion of wrongdoing, in order to access this database, while every
individual who sells an item to a second-hand goods store may become subject
to scrutiny by the police, even though it is clear that the vast majority are
innocent, law-abiding citizens who have committed no offence."
    "This matter cannot be taken lightly. The routine collection of
personally identifiable information from those who have committed no offence
goes beyond the constitutional compromise that permits intrusive action by the
police in the context of criminal law investigations. In the interests of
liberty, we must draw the line at the potential surveillance of law-abiding
citizens by the state and firmly say 'No' to any unnecessary intrusions on our
    "We are setting a standard with this Order for other municipalities that
have similar bylaws," said the Commissioner. "My office will soon be
publishing a set of Guidelines with respect to the regulation of used goods,
in an effort to provide assistance to all municipalities and police services
in the province."

    Among the steps the City of Ottawa and its police force are being ordered
by the Commissioner to take are:

    -   The city must take the necessary legal and administrative steps to
        ensure that the second-hand goods stores licensed under the bylaw
        cease collecting personal information under sections 11, 12 and 13 of
        Schedule 14 of the bylaw;

    -   The police must take the necessary legal and administrative steps to
        ensure that the police and BWI, on behalf of the police, cease
        collecting personal information under sections 13 and 16;

    -   The city is also required to ensure that second-hand goods stores
        licensed under the bylaw destroy personal information collected under
        sections 11, 12 and 13, while the police are required to ensure that
        police and BWI destroy the personal information collected under
        sections 13 and 16.

    The Order specifically allows second-hand goods stores to collect and
retain "bare contact information" of sellers (name, address, telephone number,
e-mail address) and contractual information (such as a description of the
goods), where there is a legitimate business need or valid legal authority
(outside the scope of the bylaw) to do so.
    The Guidelines cited by the Commissioner, with respect to the regulation
of used goods, will be released within two weeks.

For further information:

For further information: Media contact: Bob Spence, Communications
Co-ordinator, Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario,
Phone: (416) 326-3939, Cell: (416) 873-9746,

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