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Privacy Invasion

I just discovered that someone I know hacked into my email account and online banking records. They saw everything. From what I can tell they have been snooping my records for a significant period of time. Am I able to sue them for a privacy invasion?

Yes.

Unfortunately, the digitization of our most personal information has greatly increased the prevalence of data leaks, hacks, and breaches. It is likely that you have heard about large data breaches in the news. With personal privacy becoming more important, politicians and courts have taken steps to safeguard our privacy.
A relatively new cause of action, known as “intrusion upon seclusion”, was adopted in 2012 to address invasions of privacy. In the Jones v. Tsige decision, the Ontario Court of Appeal stated that an individual may obtain compensation for privacy invasions when the following components are satisfied:
  • The privacy invader exhibited intentional or reckless conduct;
  • The plaintiff’s privacy was invaded without justification; and
  • A reasonable individual, under the circumstances, would consider the privacy invasion to be highly offensive.
With that being said, the damages that have been awarded thus far have been relatively modest. The Court in Jones v. Tsige held that $20,000 was usually the upper limit one could reasonably expect in most cases. In fact, reported decisions since the Jones case have been under $10,000. While this is not a great deal of money, it may be well worth pursuing a single action in small claims court. For larger privacy breaches, where many people are affected, commencing a class action may also be a viable option.

Look out for my next article which will discuss another potential privacy cause of action referred to as “public disclosure of private facts.”