Oh the excitement in the media recently: the Canadian Government spied on the activities of Passengers at (presumably) Pearson Airport who logged onto the free Wi-Fi.

Shocked? You shouldn’t be.

My first thoughts in reading the story were “who has an expectation of privacy on a free Wi-Fi”? Every time you log onto Wi-Fi, you are using a router, the router can capture all the data you are running through it. You might want to consider that the next time you pull into a Tims to check your email.

I then realized, in listening to the public reaction, that many people do not understand how the internet works and, applying this to Business, they have no clue about ownership of emails and other internet activity that originates at work.

With respect to corporate emails. The employer owns the email address. The employer can review all sent/received items at any time. Think of a corporate email address the same way you do corporate letterhead: anything sent from it is on behalf of the company.

Moving onto internet privacy at work: all businesses should have an Internet Use Policy in their Employee Handbook. This will set out what you allow your employees to use the internet for at work as well as what is forbidden. It is a good idea to remind everyone in the policy that as the Employer, you can review work computer screens at any time and as such, passwords and other personal data could inadvertently be captured by the employer.

Everyone should always “think before you surf” – where are you, how are you sending data and how private does this need to be? If you think before you surf, your expectation of privacy will be realistic (i.e. there is none) and you will be making an informed surfing decision.

Inga B. Andriessen JD
iandriessen@andriessen.ca