SCC Decision Clarifies Right of Privacy in Shared Digital Devices

In December the Supreme Court of Canada released their decision in R v Reeves. This decision considered what expectation of privacy an individual has in a shared digital device, such as a shared computer or tablet. The Court found that a third-party, even one who has access to the shared device, cannot unilaterally consent to a police search and seizure of the device.

In Reeves, the accused’s estranged common-law wife had consented to the police seizing and searching a shared device in order to look for evidence of possession of child pornography. The accused was facing a domestic assault charge at the time and had conditions preventing him from being at the residence during the time his ex-partner consented to the seizure.

The Supreme Court affirmed the test that a Court must apply in order to determine whether an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy in a shared digital device. The majority also confirmed that control over or ownership of the computing device, while relevant, is not determinative of whether a subjective expectation of privacy is objectively reasonable.

Link to the decision: https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/17405/index.do

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