As you may be aware your employer may attempt to monitor your electronic communications if they believe that you are attempting to set up business in competition with them or perhaps act in a way contrary to any restrictive covenants. In general corporate espionage is more common than you may think.
Top 3 TIPS
- Don’t use your work emails for your legal advice
- All company computers and phones leave data trails even if you delete information
- Your employer may have the right to monitor your communications
It is illegal under RIPA (the terrorism act) to monitor live communications, for example to hack into your phone line, unless you have been made aware that calls are monitored.
What it legal however, is for your employer to look back into your previous communications, including your work emails, by looking at the hard drive on your machine or data stored on the server.
Skype instant messenger, for example, stores written ‘chat’ conversations, on Excel files on the hard drive of your actual computer. This is not held on the cloud or on Skype servers, unlike with personal email accounts.
Regarding personal email accounts, the legal situation is less clear, but it is worth bearing in mind that everything you ever write using a computer can be reconstructed from examining that computer’s hard drive. The only way to be sure that no information can be reconstructed is to put a screwdriver through the hard drive, or dispose of it in some other way (not that we are suggesting that you do that!).
What about if I want to see my employer’s communications?
It is your right to make a subject access request to your employer, asking them for all communications regarding you. This would be done to gain evidence to support a case you might have against your employer. Find out more in our article on subject access requests.