The Federal Court of Canada’s decision in Philippa Lawson v. Accusearch Inc. on February 5, 2007 clarified that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) does have jurisdiction to investigate complaints about how Canadians’ personal information is handled by foreign-based companies.

OPC had investigated the privacy practices of foreign-based Accusearch Inc. (doing business as Abika.com) and found that, in contravention of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), the company had disclosed the personal information of Canadians (without their knowledge or consent) to third parties.

The OPC also found that such disclosure had been made without first considering the appropriateness of the request for disclosure. OPC recommended that Abika.com stop collecting, using and disclosing the personal information of Canadians without their knowledge and consent. Although OPC does not have the authority to make binding orders, individuals (and OPC on their behalf) may refer non-compliance to the Federal Court of Canada. That court has wide remedial authority, including the power to award damages for a breach of PIPEDA requirements.