Snooping Does Not Pay

Let’s spice this up a bit and begin with a love triangle of sorts.

Ms. Tsige was in love with a divorced man. She and her lover were curious about the finances of his ex-wife, one Sandra Jones. As luck would have it, Tsige was a teller at the very bank where the wife banked. She peeked one day. And she peeked some more. In total, she looked into the wife’s finances a whopping 174 times over a 4 year period. The wife got suspicious; the bank confirmed her suspicions and Tsige was fired. The wife went on to sue as well.

Now, since the days of the pioneers, Upper Canada has never permitted lawsuits for a simple breach of privacy. The Court of Appeal broke with 200 years of tradition and agreed to invent a brand new kind of lawsuit (they stole the idea from south of the border). It is called, rather clumsily, the tort of “intrusion upon seclusion”, meaning someone has stepped into or intruded upon that which you properly assumed would be private or secluded.

Now, these cases are not worth a fortune; the court stated that most of these claims will be worth at most perhaps $20,000 (in this case, they awarded $10,000 to Jones). So any claim will be small claims court material, no more.

This tool has been used to expose and financially penalize everyone from hospital records clerks to reporters who snoop into cell phones. Privacy is harder to maintain than ever. Perhaps this will be one small step in that direction.