Canada’s Privacy Commissioner (CPC) is preparing to issue guidance for online cannabis purchasers amidst concerns of potential fallout, such as being barred from entry into the United States if transactions become known by third parties.

The guidance is intended to warn Canadian consumers about the potential privacy threat of online transactions. Many consumers are unaware that transactions may be processed in foreign countries, making transactional records accessible to law enforcement and national security authorities of that jurisdiction. If processed in jurisdictions like the United States, where cannabis is illegal, online cannabis purchasers could face issues at border crossings.

This threat is of greater concern in jurisdictions such as Ontario where residents do not yet have the option of purchasing legal cannabis anonymously by paying cash in-store and must purchase the product online. Ontario has already faced a data breach involving 4,500 customers who purchased cannabis online through the Ontario Cannabis Store (previously reported in the E-TIPS® newsletter here).

The CPC’s announcement comes on the heels of a controversial Statistics Canada initiative to obtain detailed bank records from all Canadians in a bid to develop a “new institutional personal information bank”.

British Columbia’s privacy commissioner has already issued its own guidance to BC residents, noting that online sellers collect personal information such as name, date of birth, home address, credit card number, purchase history and email address.

Ontario’s privacy commissioner Brian Beamish highlights that “[t]he key issue here is the protection of bank information, whether it’s related to legal cannabis transactions or any other personal banking decision”.

Summary By: Jennifer Davidson

E-TIPS® ISSUE

18 11 28