Privacy in the Workplace

AuthorPaul Wearing
Privacy in the Workplace
What You Should Know
Employees have a reasonable and continuous expectation of privacy in
the personal information stored on a work-issued computer, but it is a
diminished expectation subject to considerations of the truth-seeking
function of the criminal trial process.
R v Cole1 was the criminal trial of a teacher who had stored nude and
partially nude photographs of a female student on a laptop computer is-
sued by the school board. The photographs were discovered on a routine
maintenance inspection by a school board technician. The school board
handed the laptop over to the police, and the teacher was charged with
possession of child pornography. At f‌irst instance the teacher was acquit-
ted on the basis of a violation of his rights under the Canadian Charter
of Rights and Freedoms, because the police had had no warrant for the
seizure of the laptop and the f‌iles on it.
The case wound its way to the Supreme Court of Canada, where the
Court ruled that notwithstanding the teacher’s reasonable expectation
of privacy, considerations of the criminal trial process outweighed the
teacher’s privacy rights. It is important to note that the school board had
not required teachers to sign an acceptable use of equipment agree-
ment and had no policy on the searching of work-issued computers or

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