Some expectation of privacy with workplace computers: SCC

Criminal ruling could have implications in civil context
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/17/2012

The recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling of R v. Cole has generated a lot of talk around the issue of employee privacy when it comes to the personal use of workplace computers. While the decision was about employee rights when it comes to unlawful search and seizure by the state under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it has implications for private sector employers, according to legal experts.

Private employers don’t need to panic because the court made no comment with respect to their right to monitor an employee’s computer use, said Bettina Burgess, a senior associate at law firm Gowlings in Waterloo, Ont.

“That’s not to say, however, that employees are not going to use this decision or attempt to use this decision to enforce privacy rights against their private employer,” she said. “They might rely on the Cole decision to say, ‘Even though I’m at work and using my employer’s computer, because my employer has allowed me to use it for personal use, I have a heightened expectation of privacy.’”