Privacy and Driver’s Licenses and License Plates

Various Canadian Privacy Commissioners have taken the position that car license plate numbers are personal information, and thus subject to privacy legislation. That comes up, for example, in the context of Google street views, where Google has been told they must blur license plate numbers. 

Various Privacy Commissioner decisions have also limited the use of driver’s license information. For example, a store may ask to see a driver’s license as identification for someone returning a purchase as a fraud prevention measure, but the store is only supposed to look at it, not record the information on it.

Those principles are now in question as a result of an Alberta Court of Appeal Decision. (Or at least as far as Alberta privacy legislation is concerned.)

In Leon’s Furniture v Alberta the Court of Appeal said that license plate numbers are not personal information. And that a business can record driver’s license numbers so long as there is a reasonable need, and appropriate safeguards are in place.

Given the impact of this decision it would not be surprising if it was appealed. The decision contains a dissent that Privacy Commissioners will no doubt find encouraging.

For more commentary and analysis about the case see All About Information and the Canadian Privacy Law Blog. The decision is here.

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