The Supreme Court of Canada has again emphasized privacy rights raised by searches of electronic devices such as computers and mobile phones.
Last year, in R. v. Cole, the Court found that employees may have a reasonable, though limited, expectation of privacy in their work computer, taking into account the “totality of the circumstances”. In that case, the employer’s workplace policies, procedures and technology reduced the employee’s privacy expectations, but did not eliminate it.
This week, in R. v. Vu, the Court held that police are required to have specific authorization in a search warrant to search the data in a computer, describing the privacy interests arising in computer searches as “markedly different” from those at stake in searches of other types of receptacles (such as cupboards and filing cabinets).
The Court made no distinction between a “personal” computer and a “security” (or workplace) computer because both were capable of storing personal information.
This decision, while a criminal case, provides further guidance on how our courts will treat an employee’s expectation of privacy on workplace devices, and the rights of employers to conduct searches of these devices.
If you have any questions about recent developments surrounding employee privacy rights, or any other questions relating to workplace law, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.
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