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College secretary wins spying damages against employer

A college secretary from Wales has won a legal battle against her employers and the UK government after a senior member of staff at the college secretly monitored her personal communications for up to 18 months without her consent.

The European Court of Human Rights found that her employers violated her right to privacy when they logged details of her personal phone calls, analysed websites she visited, and tracked her e-mail correspondence.

Lynette Copland, who works at Carmarthenshire College in west Wales, sued her employer for breaching the Human Rights convention.

Represented by human rights organisation Liberty, Copland was awarded £2,100 in damages by the court for stress and anxiety suffered in the workplace.

Liberty legal director James Welch said, “Employees don't leave their personal privacy at the front door when they come to work each day. This judgment makes perfectly clear that employers who spy on their staff are infringing their privacy.”

Copland’s personal communications were monitored during 1998 and 1999 when there was no general right to privacy in English law.

The implementation of the Human Rights Act 1998 in 2000, and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 now legally protect privacy rights in domestic law.

Employers must now ensure that employees are aware that their communications could be monitored, and that there is a good reason for such monitoring in every case.

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Comment on this article: e-mail computer.weekly@rbi.co.uk

Stuart King’s risk management blog
Dealing with the operational challenges of information security and risk management


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