Tuesday, February 14, 2012

US Lawsuit Raises Questions About Email Privacy

A lawsuit filed in the District Court in DC against the FDA is raising some interesting questions about email privacy when employer computers are being used. It's an old questions but one that isn't fully resolved as yet. In this case, the users were using FDA computers but had permission to use them for personal purposes. It alleges that the FDA installed monitoring software to capture and archive the messages, many of which were extremely personal.

The question is, given that the employees had permission to use the computers for personal purposes, did they have a right to expect normal privacy in their correspondence. Intuitively, many people would answer in the affirmative.

This right of employees is protected by the Canadian privacy law - PIPEDA. But that doesn't necessarily apply in all provinces, and not all provinces have their own privacy law.

As a minimum, one would expect that the ground rules of personal use of employer computers need to be spelled out in advance. But even then, does the employer have the right to impose monitoring on private corerspondence? The suit may address this issue as well. For a write up on the lawsuit, check this link.

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