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By Bob Pakrul

Campgrounds and other lodging facilities collect a wide variety of personal information about their guests. Some of that information is fairly sensitive, such as credit card numbers.  Other information may not be considered as sensitive - for example, check-in and check-out times. However, facility owners should remember that they have privacy obligations with respect to all personal information they collect on their guests, regardless of sensitivity.

A recent finding published by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada serves as a helpful reminder.

In Finding No. 2013-007 issued under Canada's Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, an individual successfully complained that a hotel had disclosed personal information about him to his employer. The individual's duties led him to regularly stay at hotels for his work. A representative of the employer apparently contacted a hotel by phone to request check-in and check-out times for two recent stays by the individual. A hotel employee voluntarily provided this information to the employer over the phone. This information was later used by the employer in discipline proceedings and the individual's employment was subsequently terminated.

The Privacy Commissioner found that the hotel check-in and check-out times were personal information about an identifiable individual. As a result, the hotel had privacy duties under the applicable privacy legislation. Regardless of the perceived degree of sensitivity, before disclosing that information, the hotel needed to ensure that either:

a)    it had the consent of the guest to release the information; or

b)    a statutory exemption applied permitting disclosure without knowledge or consent of the guest.

While some statutory exemptions exist and may be relied on in appropriate circumstances (e.g. police investigations or emergency situations), operators should review their privacy policies and staff training to ensure that they are complying with their privacy obligations relating to the disclosure of any personal information of their guests.

Spam Alert!

Canada's anti-spam legislation will come into force on July 1, 2014.  Members of BCLCA should review their email practices to ensure compliance with the new rules.  For more detail, visit our information and privacy law blog at www.ahbl.ca.

This article is for the sole purpose of providing general information. It is not meant to be and does not constitute legal or other professional advice.

Bob Pakrul practices Privacy and Business Law with Alexander Holburn, and has experience in a variety of privacy-related matters. For further information, please contact him at rpakrul@ahbl.ca or 604-484-1720. 

Alexander Holburn is the provider of legal services to the members of the BC Lodging and Campground Association. We have specialized rates in place for BCLCA members and would be pleased to assist with your legal needs. We are a full-service law firm based in downtown Vancouver, and our lawyers operate across 22 practice areas. We advise on both commercial and personal legal matters throughout BC and beyond.  www.ahbl.ca

Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia

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