Today's computer technology improves exponentially from year to year, putting tiny, yet ever more powerful, computers in the palms of our hands, on our bodies, or even under our skin. With the proliferation of wearable "Internet of Things" devices, many new technologies that track our physical and physiological traits are moving into the workplace - yet, our privacy laws are struggling to keep up. This gap between technology and the law can put employees' privacy rights at risk.
Political discussions seem to be happening everywhere today. And, more often than not, they can get quite heated. From tense family dinner tables to disagreements with complete strangers, people are voicing their opinions - loudly.
Back in 2012, forbes caused a stir when it published an article detailing how Target was tracking customer purchases so closely that it figured out a teen was pregnant before she had even told her parents. for many people, it was their first real glimpse of how big data - the ever-growing mass of our electronically-stored personal information - is being analyzed to predict behaviors and spot trends. The idea that a retailer could have such detailed knowledge of the most intimate aspects of our lives raised many concerns about how that information was being used.
So-called "wearables," such as fitness trackers, are becoming more and more ubiquitous every day. It's easy to see why. They count our steps, monitor our heart rate, measure the quality of our sleep, and we can use that information to improve our health.
A departing employee who turns in her office BlackBerry incautiously allowed her former boss access to 48,000 (!) private g-mails messages. Are the boss and employer possibly liable for violations of the federal Stored Communications Act (SCA), 18 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq., by opening and reading some of those messages? A district court in Ohio holds in favor of the employee, denying a motion to dismiss her complaint on this count.
Between the holidays, the Second Circuit published a decision that might serve as a warning to employees to keep abreast of their companies' data-use policies. Depending on the jurisdiction, violation of company policies may also violate state law that protect data privacy - and such violations can get you in trouble, even remotely. The court holds that the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut had long-arm jurisdiction over the plaintiff's former employee in Canada, because she e-mailed herself data from servers located in Waterbury, Connecticut.
If you think your connections on LinkedIn belong to you (as opposed to your employer) just because your name and picture appear on the account - think again! A recent decision out of a federal district court in Pennsylvania provides some support for employers who argue that contacts derived from social media accounts that were created using work emails and accessed for work purposes belong to the employer, not the employee. On the other hand, the case also seems implicitly to acknowledge that the account itself belongs to the employee who created it.