Supreme Court Work Computer Privacy Ruling

Oct 24, 2012

Supreme Court of Canada ruled Friday that workplace computers contain so much personal information nowadays that employees have a legitimate expectation of privacy in using them. “Canadians may therefore reasonably expect privacy in the information contained on these computers, at least where personal use is permitted or reasonably expected,” Mr. Justice Morris Fish.

The Supreme Court is recognizing that the Internet is highly revealing of private personal choices and they have given it constitutional protection. However, in some cases the seriousness of an offence and workplace computer policies are sufficient to override the right to privacy (for example a case where an Ontario teacher had nude photos of underage students on his laptop).

The court went out of its way to state that delving into an employee’s Internet browsing history represents a clear incursion into his or her private world.  Organizational policies need to take into account the privacy interest that exists on the device and the information on it.