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Equality at Stake: Connecting the Privacy/Vulnerability Cycle to the Debate about Publicly Accessible Online Court Records

Jacquelyn Burkell & Jane Bailey

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Abstract

A considerable amount has been written about the privacy implications of publishing court and tribunal records online. In this article the authors examine the linkages between privacy and vulnerability for members of marginalized communities and, drawing on Calo’s “vicious cycle” of privacy and vulnerability, suggest that publicly accessible online court records represent an equality issue as well. Drawing on social science research and privacy theory, the authors demonstrate the potentially disproportionate effect of online court records on members of marginalized communities. They then examine Canadian case law, legislation and policy that impose restrictions on public disclosure of information from court proceedings and disclosure of information within court proceedings to highlight a limited pre-existing recognition of the privacy/vulnerability cycle. In conclusion they suggest that removal of personal information from court records made publicly available online would serve to protect both privacy and equality rights.