Can you Get Charged for Reading Someone’s E-mail?

August 7, 2021

In today’s fast-paced economic climate, most Canadians receive their personal and business correspondence via e-mail. Everything from bills to financial statements to wedding invitations to office work are sent over the Internet, turning our world into a paperless environment.

Before wireless correspondence, everything came in the mail. Because of this, the Canada Post Corporation Act makes it illegal for any unauthorized individual to open, keep or even delay someone else’s mail.

If you moved and forget to cancel a magazine subscription, you may not mind if the new tenants in your old home flipped through the pages or even threw it out. It’s just a magazine, you can contact the publishing company and they can send you a new one. Contrariwise, what if you forget to re-route your credit card bill? What if the new tenant has no moral compass and opens your mail, records your information and commits fraud using your credit card? You would most definitely take action because even though them flipping through that magazine is also a crime, fraud can affect your entire life and the people around you.

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Now, you may get zero documents and bills via the post. Everything is safe and sound in your e-mail, but what happens if someone accesses that without your authorization? It’s the same content, the same information, and the only difference is the delivery method in which it go to you. Whether it be a coworker or someone browsing an e-mail window you left open, you may feel violated enough to want to take legal action.

And you’re able to do that.

You can get charged for reading someone’s e-mail. Although there is no explicit law or code in place to protect you from someone else checking your email without your permission, there are strict cybercrime rulings in Canada that do safeguard you.

According to the RCMP, cybercrimes are any crimes where the Internet and information technologies (computers, tablets, phones, and the like) are used in the commission of a criminal offense. Cybercrime entails any instance where a crime takes place online be it a telemarketing scheme, hate speech and bullying on social media, identity theft and e-mail hacking.

If you give someone your e-mail password, let them check it then regret it after, there is unfortunately nothing you can do because you did offer authorization. However, if the person has used information they found in your e-mail correspondence to commit a felony, you can pursue them legally even though you allowed them access to your electronic communications.

You can get charged for reading someone’s e-mail, so to avoid any mishaps, do not give anyone your password or check another person’s online communication without explicit permission.
Sources: CBC, RCMP

Jonathan Pyzer
Written By:
Jonathan Pyzer
Criminal Defence Lawyer (B.A., L.L.B.)
Jonathan is a highly skilled and sought after criminal defence lawyer who represents clients charged with criminal offences all over the Province of Ontario. He is a member in good-standing with the Law Society of Upper Canada, Criminal Lawyers’ Association and Toronto Lawyers Association.
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