In 2009, a woman initiated a lawsuit against a Californian advertising firm and Toyota U.S.A. because of an aggressive advertising campaign that she claimed was designed to make individuals believe they were being stalked by a criminal (which, in fact, turned out to be fictitious). While the charges are now being dealt with by the Los Angeles Superior Court the case raises issues in respect of the application of privacy principles here in Canada.
In 2008, Toyota Matrix advertised the “Your Other You” campaign which targeted young males. It encouraged individuals to provide someone else’s personal information, who would then receive an invitation to a fake personality test. What really happened was, the “victim” ended up receiving numerous disturbing emails from an imaginary soccer hooligan with a pitbull named Trigger. This impersonator claimed to be on their way to the victim’s house, who had no idea it was a hoax. In order to promote the advertising campaign, a fake social networking account for the stalker was even set up.
How would a similar case play out here in Canada? Under the PIPEDA framework , there would possibly be a violation of the law because of the alleged collection, use and disclosure of personal information without consent. Further, PIPEDA’s requirement that the “identified purposes” of any collection, use or disclosure of personal information would not likely met. Finally, the reasonableness test, enshrined in PIPEDA, would probably be violated. In short, the facts pertaining to the case could put the relevant parties in the crosshairs of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and courts. As a result, the case should serve as a warning to advertising agencies to ensure that privacy law considerations are thoroughly canvassed with legal counsel before initiating campaigns involving personal information – especially where people are submitting friends’ data.