Workplace right to privacy

Privacy on the Internet should be a priority, even in the workplace.

With a recent ruling made by the Supreme Court of Canada, the importance of respecting all employees’ privacy is now entrenched into Canadian law.

Today, it’s easier to track any individual’s activity online. When linked to a given network, employers and even other employees can have access to their coworkers’ browsing history and personal information.

Personal email accounts, Facebook messages and tweets should remain personal. Establishing a monitoring system could automatically allow employers to fish through these activities without any concern for the employee’s privacy.

This is unfair and disrespectful — something the Supreme Court has rightfully taken note of.

While certain information, such as login details for bank accounts, remains private regardless, it’s unfair for employers to have the ability to track these sorts of activities while they remain unmonitored.

There are certain concerns that are raised when computer usage at work isn’t monitored — ones that the Supreme Court addressed in their ruling.

With serious abuses, such as child pornography, the Internet use of a given worker can be investigated, as long as a search warrant is issued.

By monitoring the usage of every single worker constantly however, employers set a destructive standard of mistrust, where every employee is suspected of questionable Internet activities.

Staff should be using the Internet mostly for work-related purposes while on the clock. But there’s a significant grey area as to whether certain types of Internet usage are public or private. Social media and search engines can often be used for professional purposes, not just for procrastinating. This can result in it being hard to distinguish between work and play.

While the ruling is a positive step, it still focuses only on whether employers can monitor their employees’ actions on the Internet — it still isn’t possible to control how other individuals access the browsing history of their peers.

Everyone ultimately has a right to a personal domain on the Internet. While they may be using it for questionable or even criminal activities, it’s unfair to suspect and monitor every single employee of such activities.

By entrenching respect for every employee’s privacy in Canadian law, the Supreme Court’s ruling takes a step in the right direction.

— Journal Editorial Board

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