I need to start with a disclaimer – I am from Manitoba, grew up there and while Toronto is great, I still consider Manitoba home. So, when something interesting happens there, my ears perk up. A little over a week ago, a class action law suit was launched against Google in Manitoba's Court of Queen's Bench. The basis for the class action stems from default settings used by Google in Google's launch of Google Buzz earlier this year. It is alleged that despite an individual's wishes to the contrary, Google Buzz's default settings resulted in the circulation of potentially sensitive personal information on its Gmail account holder. This personal information is alleged to have been circulated to anyone with whom such account holder may have corresponded regardless of whether such correspondence was for personal, business or other (including medical) reasons. There are also suggestions that Google Buzz integrated Gmail user information with social networking sites such as Facebook. At this point, the class action against Google is seeking unspecified damages. This class action against Google dovetails quite nicely with the class action law suit launched against Facebook last summer which was also launched in Manitoba's Court of Queen's Bench. I've provided details around the class action against Facebook in my post "It's 2010 – Do You Know Where Your Personal Information Is?" Private sector privacy laws have been around in Canada for over a decade. However, it's only very recently that we've seen the class action bar in Canada get involved in privacy breaches. Manitoba, and it's historic respect for privacy rights, is a great jurisdiction in which to bring these suits and it provides a model stage on which to explore many interesting legal challenges to existing business practices. Until such time as I can convince our firm to set up a satellite office in Manitoba, I will enjoy the legal wranglings brought about by these suits from my office in the concrete jungle of Toronto.
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