Girl with camera

Employer rebuked for copying steamy photos from worker’s private email account

Peter Harris|

This story out of Calgary has a little bit of everything, sex in the workplace, topless photos, email hacking and an official ruling on workplace privacy. What happened?

Apparently a female civilian staff member at Calgary Police Headquarters was rumoured to be having sex with an officer (while at work). Placed on alert, the Police Services’ IT department began monitoring the woman’s emails.

Sure enough, they found some steamy communications between the woman and the officer in question. It’s while reading these that the IT worker also found an unrelated email she had written to her brother that contained the credentials to log into her personal email account.

The IT worker used these to log into and go through the woman’s personal emails as well. It was there that he found a series of topless photos of the woman which appeared to have been taken at work. (The photos were taken in a bathroom stall that seemed to match the colour scheme of the facilities at police headquarters.)

The IT worker copied the topless photos and gave them to the woman’s superior at work. The woman was promptly fired.

This story begs the following questions.

 

  • Was it okay for the IT worker to hack into the woman’s private email account with information he gleaned from her work email?
  • Was it fair for him to copy and circulate photos taken from her private account at work?

Apparently not. Amanda Swanek, a privacy adjudicator from Alberta’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner said that it was “invasive” and “unreasonable” for the police services to have taken the actions that they did.

While employers have the legal right to monitor their employees’ work email, the police services had no right to access the woman’s personal email account or to copy private pictures from it. (Of course, taking topless pictures of yourself at work is a risky career move, but this woman’s employer wouldn’t have known about them if they hadn’t violated her privacy in the first place.)

Following the response from the Privacy Commissioner’s office, the woman has been reinstated and the Police Services have apologized for their behaviour.

What do you think? Did the police services IT department cross the line by accessing her private account? Or is anything that can be accessed through a work computer fair game?

Source: The Calgary Sun

 

- Peter Harris


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