Latest Updates

IMPORTANT LEGAL ADVICE

Home > Latest Updates > 2015 Articles >
IMPORTANT LEGAL ADVICE
.


In BC, charities are not exempt from the requirements of the Personal Information Protection Act (unlike in other jurisdictions in Canada). Churches and other charities are "organizations" that are subject to the requirements of the legislation. This means that churches cannot collect, use or disclose personal information without consent.

"Personal information" is defined very broadly to include any "information about an identifiable individual". The only exclusion is business contact information. Depending on the specific circumstances, a person's attendance at church or at a church related event may well be "personal information".

There is no "one size fits all" for this issue, unfortunately.

If a church is broadcasting its services, I would suggest that it use a "negative option billing" approach as permitted under s.8(3) of PIPA:

(3) An organization may collect, use or disclose personal information about an individual for specified purposes if

(a) the organization provides the individual with a notice, in a form the individual can reasonably be considered to understand, that it intends to collect, use or disclose the individual's personal information for those purposes,

(b) the organization gives the individual a reasonable opportunity to decline within a reasonable time to have his or her personal information collected, used or disclosed for those purposes,

(c) the individual does not decline, within the time allowed under paragraph (b), the proposed collection, use or disclosure, and

(d) the collection, use or disclosure of personal information is reasonable having regard to the sensitivity of the personal information in the circumstances.

The keys to using this section (as opposed to getting express consent) are:

·The purpose (use on a website, broadcast, etc.) is clearly specified;

·There has been notice of the intended collection (photograph/recording) and the use/disclosure (website, broadcast, etc.). (For a church service, for example, best practice would be to insert a notice in the bulletin and make an oralannouncement

·The notice has to be in a form the person can understand;

·There has to be the opportunity to decline or "opt out" in a reasonable amount of time, which suggests that the time will be specified.

This is obviously a lot easier with people who participate in leading a service than for capturing the images of an attendee. How can they decline?

If a person is going to participate in a service and you know you will broadcast it on a website, for example, it would be good to use a media release form. (This level of protection is always a good idea to show consent. I know I did a review of one for Aldergrove a little over two years ago.)

Part of this is a risk-assessment exercise. How likely is it that a person will complain? If the persons in the photos are church members, can their consent be obtained easily?

Common sense suggests that if you don't know who the persons in the photos are, perhaps you shouldn't be publicizing them (for a whole bunch of reasons, including that it could lead to unwanted publicity of the wrong kind).

Kevin L. Boonstra, Legal Counsel