The following three scenarios can clarify how PIPA and the Children First Act legislation inform information-sharing in the nonprofit sector.
Commercial Activities and PIPA
Manhas (2017) provides the following overview of two cases adjudicated by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC), which offer guidance on PIPA and commercial activities:
In this case, the Applicant requested access to his personal information held by the Legal Aid Society of Alberta (LASA) and considered their response incomplete . The Applicant then complained to OIPC.
The Adjudicator first considered whether PIPA applied to LASA. First, the Adjudicator recognized that the determination of whether a commercial activity occurred will be on a case-by-case basis. Second, the mere exchange of a service for a fee does not in itself indicate a commercial activity, rather PIPA intends to include trade or business-like activity. The Adjudicator noted that “… PIPA is meant to apply to non-profit organizations that are carrying out activities as though they are a business.” LASA could not be distinguished “from an operational or service standpoint” from a private law practice when LASA assessed individuals for legal aid coverage, arranged for legal services to be provided, and provided legal services. As such, LASA’s collection of personal information for these purposes was subject to PIPA.
In the Fairways Villas South Homeowners’ Association case, an appropriately incorporated nonprofit managed and maintained the Fairways Villas lands for a monthly fee. It also sent emails to the Complainant regarding lawn care and sprinkler testing. Because the maintenance services were provided in exchange for a monthly fee, the Homeowners’ Association was subject to PIPA for email disclosures as this was in direct connection to a commercial activity.
Children First Act
A community-based nonprofit was working with a 14 year old. A number of supports were being provided, including mental health outreach. An outreach worker had to call 911 when the youth became violently ill during a meeting and an overdose was suspected.
The first responders who arrived on scene requested the client’s name and medical history. If information regarding the health, security, education, safety, and well-being of children and youth is at issue, the Children First Act applies. The outreach worker also considered Reasonableness and Consent.
Although the client could not provide consent to disclose information, the outreach worker considered that the request for the name to be reasonable. Additionally, the outreach worker determined that sharing the client name and relevant medical information with the first responders was acting in the best interest of the child as it is defined under the Children First Act.