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Digest: A.T. v. Globe24h.com


[2017] F.C.J. No. 96

Federal Court
R.G. Mosley J.


January 30, 2017.
(104 paras.)


   Government law — Access to information and privacy — Protection of privacy — Personal information — Disclosure or release of information — Consent to disclosure or release — Statutory exceptions or exemptions — Purpose of disclosure or release — Remedies — Application by AT, Albertan, for damages from Globe24h.com for breach of privacy and for declaratory relief allowed — AT was awarded $5000 in general damages — Globe24h.com was Romanian company re-publishing Canadian court and tribunal decisions to make them readily searchable so as to collect fees from individuals who did not want their personal information made so readily available — Purpose of Globe24h.com was to profit from information removal, not to add journalistic content or further open court principle — Globe24h.com prohibited from further collection and publishing of Canadian court and tribunal decisions — Canada had jurisdiction, based on impact on Canadians — Personal Information and Protection of Electronic Documents Act, ss. 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10, 12, 14, 16.

   Information technology — Personal information and privacy — Access to information — Data — Disclosure — Consent — Protection of privacy — Privacy legislation — Application by AT, Albertan, for damages from Globe24h.com for breach of privacy and for declaratory relief allowed — AT was awarded $5000 in general damages — Globe24h.com was Romanian company re-publishing Canadian court and tribunal decisions to make them readily searchable so as to collect fees from individuals who did not want their personal information made so readily available — Purpose of Globe24h.com was to profit from information removal, not to add journalistic content or further open court principle — Globe24h.com prohibited from further collection and publishing of Canadian court and tribunal decisions — Canada had jurisdiction, based on impact on Canadians — Personal Information and Protection of Electronic Documents Act, ss. 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10, 12, 14, 16.

   Application by AT for damages for breach of his privacy by Radulescu and Globe24h.com, and for an order requiring them to change their practices to comply with the Personal Information and Protection of Electronic Documents Act. AT was a resident of Calgary, originally from Romania. Some of AT's family continued to live in Romania. Radulescu operated Globe24h.com, a Romanian-based website that re-published public documents from several countries, Canada in particular. Prior to April 2016, CanLII, a Canadian publisher of court decisions, had received over 150 complaints from individual who claimed that Globe24h.com had published decisions containing their personal information, and that such content appeared prominently in search results when their names were entered in common search engines. The complainants acknowledged that court decisions were public, but did not understand why the decisions would appear as a result of casual searches on a search engine such as Google. They objected to the fact that Globe24h.com was seeking payment for the removal of personal information from its website. AT had been a party to labour relations proceedings with his former employer. He discovered through a June 2014 Google search that an Alberta Labour Board decision concerning his case had been republished through Globe24h.com. He was concerned that the publication would impact future employment prospects. He contacted Globe24h.com and was informed he would have to pay to have his personal information removed. AT complained to the Privacy Commissioner, who conducted an investigation and concluded that the complaint was well-founded. AT also complained to Romanian authorities, which fined Globe24h.com for contravening Romanian data protection laws. In the present application, AT provided evidence that he and his family had received verbal threats for pursuing the complaint. The Commissioner had concluded that Globe24h.com's activities did not serve a journalistic purpose, but were intended to generate income by incentivizing individuals to pay to have their personal information removed. The activities did not fall under the publicly available information exception to the Act because the website's purpose in allowing decisions to be indexed by popular search engines was not directly related to the purpose for which personal information appeared in the record or document.

   HELD: Application allowed. Radulescu was declared to have contravened the Act by collecting, using and publishing personal information contained in Canadian court and tribunal decisions for inappropriate purposes without the consent of individuals concerned. He was ordered to remove this content and to refrain from further copying and republishing of Canadian court and tribunal decisions in such a manner, and was ordered to pay AT damages of $5000 and costs of $300. The evidence led to the conclusion that Radulescu was running a profit-making scheme to exploit the online publication of Canadian court and tribunal decisions containing personal information. The activity was substantially connected to Canada based on its content and its impact on members of the Canadian public. The actions taken by Romanian authorities to curtail the activity did not preclude the application of the Act because of the unlawful consequences of the activity here. A judgment in the present application would complement the activities of the Romanian authorities. The Commissioner was correct in finding no journalistic purpose for the Globe24h.com activities, where the decisions were already available online for free on Canadian websites such as CanLII. Radulescu added no value to the publication by way of commentary, additional information or analysis. He merely exploited the content by demanding payment for its removal. A reasonable person would not consider Radulescu to have a bona fide business interest. Canada had taken intentional steps to ensure that court and tribunal decisions were not indexed by search engines, which Globe24h.com sought to find a way around for the purpose of profit. The activity had nothing to do with the open courts principle, the rationale behind the inclusion of the personal information in the decisions in the first instance. The court had jurisdiction to issue a corrective order requiring Radulescu to correct his practices to comply with the Act. An award of $5000 to AT was appropriate given Radulescu's bad faith in failing to take responsibility for and to rectify the problem, and the commercial benefit he had obtained.