In a ruling on February 12, 2013 (no. 11-28.649), the French Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation) held that an employer could access the data contained on an employee’s personal USB flash drive, even in the latter’s absence, provided the flash drive is connected to a professional computer. In such case, the USB flash drive is presumed to be used for professional purposes and the employer may have access to the folders contained therein provided, in accordance with an unbroken line of case law, that the folders are not marked as being personal.

It is probable that this solution will be extended at some point to other data storage devices, such as external hard drives, though caution dictates that we should await a court ruling in this respect that is as clear as the ruling in question, in view of the risk of infringement of employees’ privacy rights.