CAPE appears at House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics

CAPE President Nathan Prier testifying at a House of Commons committee meeting

On February 15, 2024, CAPE President Nathan Prier appeared at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. He gave testimony for their study, Federal Government's Use of Technological Tools Capable of Extracting Personal Data from Mobile Devices and Computers. Appearing alongside Jennifer Carr, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, both union leaders highlighted the breach of trust that has occurred as the federal government has used tools to extract data from government devices without following its own established process. 

Mr. Prier called on the government to take several measures to protect workers’ rights and to help all federal public service workers rebuild their trust in their employer. Specifically, he advocated that: 

  • First, the government must follow their own policies when it comes to the use of technological tools capable of retrieving private information and conduct privacy assessments before any tool that could infringe privacy is used. 
  • Second, the government should immediately conduct the necessary privacy assessments and publicly release the results.
  • Finally, the government must review all of its digital policies to ensure that the policy framework is adequately robust to protect employees’ digital rights, including their right to reasonable privacy, their right to be informed about any digital surveillance tools being used in the workplace, and their right to disconnect from work at the end of the day.   

As first reported in December 2023, the federal government has failed to follow its own rules regarding the use of tools capable of retrieving private information from government devices. During Standing Committee hearings on the matter, senior government officials have indicated that these technologies are being used exclusively during investigations; however, some witnesses have struggled to provide adequate answers to the committee, and their answers indicate that the government is operating outside its own established policy framework. CAPE believes the government has failed to follow its own rules with respect to the use of such tools, and that workers are not fully informed about the use of digital tools in their workplaces that could infringe their rights to reasonable privacy. 

All public sector workers deserve reasonable privacy and due process. CAPE will continue to advocate on behalf of its members for improved transparency and privacy rights.