The CCLA will appear before the Supreme Court to argue that the private, personal information in our communication devices must be protected by the Charter – regardless of whether they are owned personally, or provided through our workplaces.
In R. v. Cole the Court will examine whether an individual whose work computer may be accessed by the employer for maintenance purposes still has a reasonable expectation of privacy regarding the information on the computer. If the Supreme Court finds that an employee does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a work computer, phone, or other communication device, an employer will be able to unilaterally decide when to respect individual employee privacy and when to hand all an employee’s information over to the police.
CCLA will argue that employers should not be able to waive their employee’s privacy rights. Work computers and phones are frequently used for personal projects, phone calls and emails. Absent exigent circumstances, warrantless state access to this sensitive and personal information is an intrusive and extensive interference with the privacy interests enshrined in s. 8 of the Charter.
To read CCLA’s factum click here
The case, on appeal from the Ontario Court of Appeal, arose when the respondent, a high school teacher, had his school laptop’s hard drive remotely accessed by a computer technician employed by the school. The technician accessed a hidden folder on the respondent’s hard drive to perform a virus scan and discovered nude photographs of a young female student. The images had been e-mailed by the student to another student, which the respondent accessed through the student’s email account in the course of his supervisory duties. The school’s technicians provided a copy of the photographs along with the respondent’s computer to police. The police searched the laptop and browsing history without obtaining a warrant and charged the respondent with possession of child pornography and fraudulently obtaining data from another computer hard drive. The trial judge excluded all the evidence from the laptop on the basis that the respondent’s s. 8 Charter rights were breached. The summary conviction appeal judge overturned the decision on the ground that the teacher had no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding the laptop’s comments. The Ontario Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and excluded evidence from the laptop, as it was obtained by police without first obtaining a proper warrant and thereby violated the respondent’s Charter rights.