Sex, E-mail & Privacy – You Have Privacy Rights For As Long As No One Is Interested

by Dentons

[author: ]

On November 15, 2012, the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Conference (SOGIC) of the Ontario Bar Association (OBA) held a seminar on “Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity: Managing Personal Privacy and Reputational Risks in an Online Era“. I was invited to participate as a speaker. 

One of my (tongue-in-cheek) messages at the event was that you only have privacy rights for as long as no one is interested in what you are doing. It might be 45 years since the late Rt. Hon. Pierre Trudeau said that the State has no business in the bedrooms of the nation, but the continual parade of sex scandals demonstrates the State and the public still considers to what happens between consenting adults to be very interesting and worthy of opinion. Just open any North American daily newspaper this past week.

Certainly, there are numerous criminal and civil protections for privacy in Canada that Canadians and members of the LGBTQ community can rely on for privacy protections depending on the nature of the breach.  These include public and private sector privacy legislation, Criminal Code provisions (interception of private communications, harassing phone calls, spreading false messages and hate speech), the new tort of intrusion upon seclusion, statutory invasion of privacy torts (in some provinces), appropriation of personality, libel and defamation, nuisance and breach of confidence.

However, these remedies all have significant limitations. Private sector privacy legislation has no teeth when dealing with a non-commercial blogger. All of the court-based remedies require seeking vindication in a public forum. For defamation, the facts and photos might be embarrassing but if the defendant can prove they are true or part of responsible journalism or a qualified privilege defence applies, the subject of the facts and photos has no remedy. Even when privacy rights are vindicated, any monetary remedy is relatively small and the publicity and the digitized record of the event giving rise to the intrusion of privacy is likely, at least at the present time, to continue on with a life of its own unless publication of the intrusion was relatively contained and the operators of the site are willing to take the material down.

My colleagues on the panel were very thought-provoking. Here are some of my “take-aways” for further thinking and discussion:

  • There is a gap in privacy protection for employees and job candidates (other than in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, public sector employees, and employees of federal undertakings). We are principally relying on Human Rights legislation for moral suasion.
  • There is a gap in privacy protection with respect to electoral information gathered by political parties and information collected by elected officials. Can this be justified on the basis of promoting our democratic system of government? Or, do elected officials lose credibility when dealing with private sector privacy mistakes when they have exempted themselves from an obligation to protect the privacy of their constituents?
  • We need to have a serious conversation about the “right to be forgotten”. A right of minors might be a useful starting point. Should an indiscreet photo or a story posted by a minor’s friend when the minor is 16 have an unlimited shelf-life on the Internet, or does this impinge too far on freedom of expression?
  • The time may soon be ripe to recognize a tort of publication of embarrassing private facts based on the U.S. and New Zealand tort. What will it look like? How do we protect robust freedom of expression and at the same time provide individuals with protection from becoming the subject of targeted shaming by groups who do not share the same values as the target?
  • Will the limit of $20,000 for general damages for the tort of intrusion upon seclusion be exceeded in the short-term? Or, will plaintiffs be able to demonstrate successfully to the court that the breach of privacy caused specific economic harm?
  • Is the term “privacy” confusing the issue (except to privacy advocates)? Is the main issue systematic and unwelcome private-sector and public-sector surveillance? In other words, a question of control? Is a necessary ingredient of a free society, in the digital age, one in which individuals have protection from the unauthorized use of information that is public in a nominal sense?

Thank you SOGIC for putting on this timely seminar.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Dentons | Attorney Advertising

Written by:


Dentons on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.