Case Update: Google LLC v Canada (Privacy Commissioner)

  • October 13, 2023
  • Govind K Chaturvedi

Last week the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the ruling of the Federal Court by Chief Justice Jocelyne Gagné in July 2021 wherein it was held that the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) should apply to Google’s search engine results, as they have a commercial interest in it by way of ads and also connecting two players[1]. This started back in 2017, when an anonymous complainant filed a complaint against Google before the Office of Privacy Commissioner(OPC) for showing outdated search results that led to him facing harassment both personally and professionally. After Google told the Commissioner that its search results were not subject to PIPEDA, the Commissioner sent the question for reference to the Federal Court under subsection 18.3(1) of the Federal Courts Act, 1985. The questions that were referred to were:

“A.  Does Google, in the operation of its search engine service, collect, use or disclose personal information in the course of commercial activities within the meaning of paragraph 4(1)(a) of PIPEDA when it indexes web pages and presents search results in response to searches of an individual’s name?

B.  Is the operation of Google’s search engine service excluded from the application of Part 1 of PIPEDA by virtue of paragraph 4(2)(c) of PIPEDA because it involves the collection, use or disclosure of personal information for journalistic, artistic or literary purposes and for no other purpose?”[2]