Personal information is information about an identifiable individual. Personal information includes information that relates an identifiable individual’s personal characteristics (e.g., gender, age, income, home address or phone number, ethnic background, family status), and health (e.g. religion, politics, opinions expressed by an individual, an opinion or evaluation of an individual). Personal information is to be contrasted with business information (e.g. an individual’s business address and telephone number), which is not protected by privacy legislation.
We are a law firm. In the course of providing legal services, we use a number of consultants and agencies that may, in the course of their duties, have limited access to personal information we hold. These include computer consultants, office security and maintenance, bookkeepers and accountants, a file storage company, temporary workers to cover holidays, credit card companies, website managers, cleaners, our landlord and lawyers representing other parties on client files. We restrict their access to any personal information we hold as much as is reasonably possible. We also have their assurance that they follow appropriate privacy principles.
Like all lawyers, we collect, use and disclose personal information in order to serve our clients. For our clients, the primary purpose for collecting personal information is to provide legal advice and services. Where our client is an individual, we collect information about the client’s legal issue including anything the client might have done or said that might affect their legal situation, so that we can advise the client as to their legal rights and responsibilities, their options for addressing the issue and then to carry out their instructions.
A second primary purpose might be to collect personal information from third parties about a client’s legal issue so that we can ascertain how the third party’s perception of events can affect our client’s legal situation. A third primary purpose is to obtain home contact information so that we can contact the client.
It would be rare for us to collect any personal information without the client’s express consent, but this might occur in a case of urgency (e.g., the client is unavailable) or where we believe the client would consent if asked and it is impractical to obtain consent (e.g., a potential witness is located).
For members of the general public, our primary purpose for collecting personal information is usually to gather and review evidence that is relevant to a legal issue affecting our own clients. Thus, the personal information is usually incidental to our providing advice to our client. Often this collection, use and disclosure is done without the individual’s consent because we are reviewing an apparent breach of law or an agreement and obtaining a consent would compromise the investigation.
Another primary purpose for collecting personal information about members of the general public is to provide notice of special events (e.g., a seminar or conference) or to make them aware of legal services in general or our firm in particular. For example, while we try to collect work contact information where possible, we might collect home addresses, fax numbers and e-mail addresses. We try to obtain consent before collecting any such personal information, but where this is not, for any reason, possible, we will, upon request, immediately remove any personal information from our distribution list.
On our website, we only collect, with the exception of “cookies”, the personal information you provide and only use that information for the purpose for which you gave it to us (e.g., to respond to your e-mail message, to register for a seminar, to subscribe to any newsletter we may publish). Cookies are only used to help you navigate our website and are not used to monitor you.
For people who are contracted to do work for us (e.g., temporary workers), our primary purpose for collecting personal information is to ensure we can contact them in the future (e.g., for new assignments) and for necessary work-related communication (e.g., sending our pay cheques, year-end tax receipts, fax filings). Examples of the type of personal information we collect for those purposes include home addresses and telephone numbers. It is rare for us to collect such information without prior consent, but it might happen in the case of a health emergency (e.g., an outbreak of a contagious disease) or to investigate a possible breach of law (e.g., if a theft were to occur in the office).
When we act as an investigator for professional regulators or associations or other business clients, our primary purpose for collecting personal information is to gather the necessary information and evidence to express a sound opinion on the issue for our client and represent them in legal proceedings. For example, we collect information about an allegation of wrongdoing by a member of a professional body or an employee of our client. In such circumstances, we often act without the consent of the subject of the investigation because we are inquiring into an apparent breach of law or an agreement and obtaining consent would compromise the investigation.
Like most organizations, we also collect, use and disclose information for purposes related to or secondary to our primary purposes. the most common examples of our related and secondary purposes are as follows:
You can choose not to be part of some of these related or secondary purposes (e.g., by declining special offers or promotions, by paying for our services in advance). We do not, however, have much choice about some of these related or secondary purposes (e.g., regulatory requirements).
We understand the importance of protecting personal information. For that reason, we have taken the following steps:
We need to retain personal information for some time to ensure that we can answer any questions you might have about the services provided and for our own accountability to external regulatory bodies. However, we do not want to keep personal information too long in order to protect your privacy.
We keep client files for about ten years. Our client and contact directories are much more difficult to systematically destroy, so we remove such information when we can if it does not appear that we will be contacting you again. However, if you ask, we will remove such contact information right away. We keep any personal information relating to our general correspondence with people who are not our clients, newsletters, seminars and marketing activities until after the newsletter ceases publication or a seminar or marketing activity is over.
With the above in mind, we destroy paper files containing personal information by shredding. We destroy electronic information by deleting it and, when the hardware is discarded, we ensure that the hard drive is physically destroyed. Alternately, we may send some or all of the client file to our client.
With some exceptions, you have the right to see what personal information we hold about you. Often all you have to do is ask. We can help you identify what records we might have about you. We will also try to help you understand any information you do not understand (e.g., short forms, technical language, etc.). We will need to confirm your identity, if we do not know you, before providing you with this access. We reserve the right to charge a nominal fee for such requests.
If there is a problem, we may ask you to put your request in writing. If we cannot give you access, we will tell you within thirty days if at all possible and tell you the reason, as best we can, as to why we cannot give you access. If we collected personal information about you for a client, there is a good chance that the information is protected by solicitor and client privilege and you will not be given access to it without our client’s consent.
If you believe there is a mistake in your personal information, you have the right to ask for it to be corrected. This applies to factual information and not to any professional opinions we may have formed. We may ask you to provide documentation that our files are wrong. Where we agree that we made a mistake, we will make the correction and notify anyone to whom we sent this information. If we do not agree that we have made a mistake, we will still agree to include in our file a brief statement from you regarding the matter and we will forward that statement to anyone else who received the earlier information.
Norm Piel, one of our Partners, is our Information Officer. If you have any questions, he can be contacted at:
Deeley Fabbri Sellen
Barristers and Solicitors
903 – 386 Broadway
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 3R6
If Mr. Piel is unavailable, please feel free to contact our switchboard at 204.949.1710 and our receptionist will put you in contact with someone from our Privacy Committee.
If you wish to make a formal complaint about our privacy practices, you may make it in writing to our Information Officer. He will acknowledge receipt of your complaint, ensure that it is investigated promptly and that you are provided with a formal decision and reasons in writing.
This Policy is made under The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. It is a complex Act and provides some additional exceptions to the privacy principles that are too detailed to set out here. There are some rare exceptions to the commitment set out above.
For more general inquiries, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Canada oversees the administration of the privacy legislation in the private sector. The Commissioner also acts as a kind of ombudsman for privacy disputes. The Information and Privacy Commissioner can be reached at:
112 Kent Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1H3
Deeley Fabbri Sellen offers its clients a wide range of legal experience through its diverse group of lawyers. To learn more about DFS lawyers, click on the links below. Or, for further information on how to contact Deeley Fabbri Sellen in general, please refer to our Contact Us page.Meet our Team