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What to Do If Your Privacy is Invaded at Work

By: Matthew Strawbridge - Updated: 17 May 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Privacy Work Invade Information

If your privacy is invaded at work, there are two possible culprits. The first is the company itself, which may have compromised your privacy by asking for inappropriate information or by not handling your data safely and confidentially. The second possibility is that an individual in the workplace has invaded your privacy personally. Let us look at these two scenarios in turn.

Your Company

It is quite possible that your employer does not respect your privacy as much as you do. Perhaps personal information that is not directly relevant to the employer-employee relationship is kept on your personnel file. This slack attitude toward privacy issues makes it likely that some sort of breach will take place.

Remember that your employer has a duty under the Data Protection Act to ask you only for those details that it needs in order to employ you, and to restrict its use of such details to this use. If you think you are being asked to provide data that is not relevant, then you have the right to withhold it.

Similarly, if you believe that access to personnel files is not being controlled strictly enough, you have cause for complaint.

Your Colleagues

Sometimes colleagues may invade your privacy by accident. If you are discussing personal matters on your work phone, you can hardly complain if a colleague overhears what you say. Similarly, if you leave confidential documents lying face-up on your desk, you should not be surprised if someone happens to glance at them. You must take some responsibility for safeguarding your own privacy.

However, suppose you discover that a colleague has accessed your personnel record inappropriately. There may be any number of people in your organisation that you are particularly keen to keep certain information from: the colleague who has always had a bit of a crush on you, the disgruntled subordinate who was expecting the promotion you got instead, and the security guard who you suspect may be a petty thief.

You should certainly make a formal complaint if you believe your details have been accessed for illegitimate reasons. This may result in procedures being tightened up, and perhaps some form of disciplinary action being taken against the perpetrator.

Unfortunately, once your information has been leaked in this way, there is not much you can do to protect it. You could move house, change your phone number and get a new bank account, for example, but none of these things is worth the effort unless you have cause to fear for your safety. If that is the case, you have more to worry about and you may be wiser to contact the police.

Taking Action

If someone has compromised your privacy at work, the action you should take depends on the severity of the breach. For a minor infraction, it may be sufficient to discuss the matter with the perpetrator and ask them not to do the same again in future.

If the invasion is somewhat more serious, such as someone requesting access to your personnel file without a legitimate need for it, then you may wish to complain to the snooper’s manager. By escalating the problem in this way, you may be able to ensure that the perpetrator does not reoffend, and you have the opportunity to request that the company tightens up its security so that similar breaches become less likely in the future.

As a last resort, you may need to contact the police. If you believe that your privacy has been invaded with criminal intent then this could be a wise course of action, since, even if it does not result in a prosecution, it will send a strong signal that you are aware of what has taken place and you are prepared to defend yourself.

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[Add a Comment]
@Aisha - just ignore it. The guy obviously likes you - but he said he'll get the hint if you say no. If he doesn't get the hint then you should say something! J
Jan - 17-May-17 @ 3:08 PM
I recently left work and have received a good luck card in the post from someone who worked in another department, claiming they feel that there is some attraction and asking me to contact them if I'm interested. I spoke to this person on all of two occasions - once he complimented my new haircut and I said t thank you, the second time he emailed me directly to wish me luck after I sent the whole department a joint email to say bye before I left. Again I responded politely. I never went out of my way to engage with him and definitely didn't give him any contact details, most definitely not my address. His message read that if I don't respond he'll get the hint. My initial reaction was to ignore it but I'm actually really annoyed that he took my personal address from my records. Idon't want anyone to get into trouble but don't think I shouldn't say anything either. Any advice?
Aisha - 17-May-17 @ 12:59 PM
I found out my manager has been keeping his own little files on all of the guys on his shift including me. He has already used them to get rid of one person. I also found out my boss is in on it to. They have been having meetings when my shift manager is on his off days. These are not official staff records. Is this allowed as I'm worried he is going to go after me next.
Wolfy - 3-May-17 @ 3:48 PM
I recently left my job and have now found out my ex-boss is telling customers and, in one case my friend (which is how I now know, about private matters in my life, spreading untrue rumours, and generally sharing information iv only shared with her because of who she was. Is there anytbing I can do as I really don't want it to carry on, what she's telling people is really very private and not at all something I was going to tell many people but now half of my town knows Thanks in advance
Shannon - 28-Apr-17 @ 9:39 AM
Lolpoppy - Your Question:
Something I posted on Facebook was "brought to the attention" of my management and I was given a disciplinary hearing for breach of trust. I don't have where I work on Facebook and I am not friends with people from work. does this mean they have gone looking? Is this not allowed though? What can I do?! I'm so frustrated, I wish I could walk out

Our Response:
We can't predict how your employer came by your page, but an employer is within its right to access any material published in the public domain, which Facebook is.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 21-Apr-17 @ 10:42 AM
Something I posted on Facebook was "brought to the attention" of my management and I was given a disciplinary hearing for breach of trust.. I don't have where I work on Facebook and I am not friends with people from work.. does this mean they have gone looking? Is this not allowed though? What can I do?! I'm so frustrated, I wish I could walk out
Lolpoppy - 20-Apr-17 @ 2:54 PM
I recently found through litigation that an employee, not my superior took it upon herself to look at a confidential offical record (a time record) and make a false claim related to my time record. This record was confirmed as confidential and ultimately lead to my termination.This record also had a 3rd party writing on it, someone had altered my record. I also found through litigation that my termination was agreed upon prior to any information I had provided and prior to an investigation. My investigation was conducted by the same people that had wanted me terminated under a prior and seperate company and that they had no approval from the first company, but had waited until the new corporation took over and then were able to obtain false and conspired statements. I had made a compliance hotline request per policy related to my director cursing and yelling at staff that was never returned or followed up on. At litigation the director did admit to this behavior, yet no reprimand was ever made. This corporation has a very detailed policy and procedure employee handbook and that policy was not followed per the corporation's own admission. They in fact stated that they pick and choose who they hold to policy and who they do not. I also found that the person that recommend my termination called me a "problem child" without further knowledge of what the situation was. The approval for my termination was given 3 days before my statement was even asked or provided. When I had attempted to ask for an appeal was told "not to bother," and found by litigation that the exact same ones involved in the termination process would be the same ones an appeal would have went to. What's the point of an appeal process if those exact same ones that terminated me would also be the exact same ones to decide my appeal? Since these findings were not known until litigation and the time frame to file an EEOC complaint has passed what can be done? I am having a difficult time with understanding why this is fair business practices, especially when a termination of another employee terminated after myself was done per policy. Is this discrimination and is this also possibly a whistle-blower case?
Failed - 26-Feb-17 @ 2:17 PM
I recently found out my employer has shared personal information (health) with another company. There are parties at both companies that are acquaintances, but not professionally linked. I know who is responsible for sharing this information as no oneelse was aware about my situation except a select few at my company (HR, manager etc.). I had pervious issues with my employer which lead to my health issues. I am unsure how I should approach the situation.
WWWD - 21-Feb-17 @ 7:00 PM
I am 21 years old and my manager told my mother about my tartness at work. My question is did she have the right to do that?
Little_one - 13-Feb-17 @ 2:20 AM
I was just finishing my shift when my boss pulled me aside & said "you'll be getting £500 on Tuesday"(not payday) I was like great whys that though? An she said "it's a bit of a scam but my relative works in a college and he gets so much money of the government for funding, he just needs 90 names so I've rallied round everywhere getting as many names as I can, I don't really know how it works but you'll get 500 in your bank on tuesday! I didn't think nothing of it cause I didn't know what the hell she was on about. Anyway few days later maybe a week, I had a letter saying your advanced learner loan has been approved, an said what course I'm on an everything the loan was £4670.. that's when I started to panic so I rang the number on the letter to cancel it an they said they can't do that because all the security measures have passed at the college and I have been attending the college.. bare in mind the college is in Swindon an I live and work in Liverpool.. I told him someone used my name an details an he said sorry you'll have to contact the college yourself and that I would be the one that's liable to pay it back if I just ignore it cause it's in my name bla bla bla... anyway I just want advice on how to handle it, if I ring the college her brother could get in trouble an im just scared of things being awkward in work.. what do I do???
Louise - 11-Feb-17 @ 8:33 AM
i was asked to come into the conference room by my manager where my other manager and my coworker was in also. the door was left open. my manager told me that i was suspended for a couple days- IN FRONT OF MY COWORKER AND WITH THE DOOR WIDE OPEN. Isn't that disobeying employee confidentiality? Can I act on this?
jojo - 26-Jan-17 @ 5:12 AM
blodwyn - Your Question:
I don't want to return to work I'm so humiliated and been depressed since I don't trust my employer anymore as the past 2years have been hell. What can I do?

Our Response:
If you feel you cannot return to work because of the issues, unless you raise a grievance then the matter will not be officially dealt with. You may wish to get some advice from ACAS if you need to explore your options and rights.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 17-Jan-17 @ 12:33 PM
I don't want to return to work I'm so humiliated and been depressed since I don't trust my employer anymore as the past 2years have been hell.What can i do?
blodwyn - 16-Jan-17 @ 5:57 PM
A folder was found on our it system in another location.This folder was created by a manager and titled arse covering and not securely stored on the systems information regarding my health, recent stress breakdown, my disclosure to manager of an attended mental health assessment by the primary mental health service and information to a grievance investigation where I was aggressively assualted by a colleague who just happened to be a friend of the manager was with in this folder.Several members of staff have read the contents and i have seen the contents myself.I have raised concerns formally however not a grievance they have said it was a mistake and that's that.
blodwyn - 16-Jan-17 @ 5:53 PM
My new employer sent off reference requests to my referees and as well as including my new job description, also disclosed my future salary and annual leave entitlement. Surely this is irrelevant when asking for references?
Jazz - 30-Dec-16 @ 10:59 PM
@AJ - this is not a case for financial 'compensation' - the worst that will happen is that your co-worker will get a disciplinary warning for doing something she wasn't supoosed to be doing. Nick.
NJM77 - 9-Dec-16 @ 10:00 AM
I recently applied for a job sending my CV through to the store. 30 minutes from sending my information I get flirtatious messages from an unknown number saying my name, telling me he wants me and asking if I'm single along with a few other messages. Not knowing who it was I put his number into Facebook and it pops up the profile of a sales person at the store I've just applied for... I carry on to try and find out if he will tell me the truth but nothing. So my partner and his friend are very good friends with the bosses and start asking questions for me and the guy goes into defence mode and says that his sim card had been cloned and he had nothing to do with it... he's still denying it but it has been sent to there head office. I'm concerned that this individual has accessed other sensitive information of mine like my address and could do this again to another female without her knowledge. I don't know him nor has he ever met me and there are far too many coincidences for his story to be real so I definitely feel as though he obtained my information in breach of data protection. If he isn't disciplined at work what route can I take it instead? Thanks for your help
Dannib - 8-Dec-16 @ 4:23 PM
I was in work yesterday and vitnessed a co worker remotely logging in to my PC from another location. The computers at my work are shared so I don't keep lots of private things on them. But on this occasion I had just handed in my notice and had 3 drafts of my resignation letter. To my astonishment I caught her reading through not one but all 3 versions. She thought I was away at a meeting and not in the office. It wasn't even an accident she was clearly looking for something specific and my letters were the target. I let her read all she wanted. But the screen on my PC shows what is being view and done while she is remotely connected. So I filmed everything she went into and read. I have since passed this on to management. What I want to know is, has the company failed in their duty to protect my privacy and do I have a case for compensation?
AJ - 8-Dec-16 @ 12:40 PM
mandi - Your Question:
Im having an issue at work where another colleague had told the area manager my relationship status with the store manager but not only had she told him due to her having issues she has now also felt like she has had to mention it to a third party. She is constantly checking up on the work I do and making complaint to other colleagues when its nothing to do with her as she doesnt take over at the end of my shift she is also accusing me of things im not doing which is one thing she had been called up on due to herself being court doing something she wasnt supposed to be doing. I am feeling harrased by this women I feel my privacy is being interfeered with I feel like shes trying to fource me out of the job. What can I do.

Our Response:
You can either speak to your colleague directly and tell her of your concerns. Or, you can try solving the problem or concern informally by talking to your manager. If you are still not satisfied, then the next procedure is to raise a grievance, please see gov.uk link here.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 6-Dec-16 @ 11:50 AM
Im having an issue at work where another colleague had told the area manager my relationship status with the store manager but not only had she told him due to her having issues she has now also felt like she has had to mention it to a third party. She is constantly checking up on the work i do and making complaint to other colleagues when its nothing to do with her as she doesnt take over at the end of my shift she is also accusing me of things im not doing which is one thing she had been called up on due to herself being court doing something she wasnt supposed to be doing . I am feeling harrased by this women i feel my privacy is being interfeered with i feel like shes trying to fource me out of the job. What can i do.
mandi - 5-Dec-16 @ 5:55 PM
@KP Yes, but without the proof there's not a lot your office manager can do, unless others in the office are willing to speak out. Snapchat images disappear do there is no proof :(
JOJo - 18-Nov-16 @ 9:54 AM
My son work for a large well known UK bank in their call center. He was absent from work with low mood anxiety and depression. While he was off the daily absence record was emailed to all staff instead of HR. His name, condition and reason for absence was at the top of the list. There are over 100 people on the floor. He returned to work but couldnt cope with the paranoia and increased anxiety this caused him. Colleagues approached him with questions and confirmed that the email had been seen by many. He spoke with his manager about the email and was told it was a mistake but that was it. He has just resigned and is at an all time low. This was his first employed position and his long term depression was known to the company. Any advice?
Mum - 17-Nov-16 @ 4:06 PM
A couple of coworkersare always taking pictures and /or videos of other employees at work during work hours, in a private medical practice, without their knowledge or consent and posting them on Snapchat or texting them to their friends with some sort or caption or disfigurement making light of them during working hours. This has been brought to the office managers attention but she said without the pictures she can not do anything about it. Isn't this illegal, an invasion of privacy?
KP - 17-Nov-16 @ 1:31 AM
I left an employer 3 ago and have since heard from a member of the old team that the manager went into my LinkedIn profile as me and read my inbox messages out to the team (6 employees). The social media account was rarely used as part of my working day although was needed as a resourcing tool. The work desktop I used automatically saved the password and I didn't change it when leaving- this didn't cross my mind as andshownyone needing the account would know it was under my login details. Where do I stand regarding her reading the messages out to the team?? Thanks
Distressed - 15-Nov-16 @ 11:12 PM
Hi my found a lump on her breast and went to the doc's and phoned about what was going to happens I told my manager about what's happens and I may need time off and not to say nothing to no one.I only told a trusted friend about what happens so only 2 people knows what happening.later that day my friend text me saying that the manager told someone what happend
Rapid - 14-Nov-16 @ 6:55 PM
Jward - Your Question:
Hello,On a group private facebook chat between employees I made a single comment a joke about our clients overall. I have now been suspended. I didnt disclose any confidential information or talk about anything specific just said I dispised them. I have now been suspended for this comment along with 5 others. What can I say at my hearing. I'm so confused?

Our Response:
I am afraid we cannot advise you what to say. I can only point you to a CAB link that will instruct you how to prepare and what you can expect at the meeting, please see link here.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 14-Nov-16 @ 12:05 PM
Hello, On a group private facebook chat between employees I made a single comment a joke about our clients overall. I have now been suspended. I didnt disclose any confidential information or talk about anything specific just said I dispised them. I have now been suspended for this comment along with 5 others. What can I say at my hearing. I'm so confused?
Jward - 13-Nov-16 @ 4:16 PM
I resigned at my current company after over hearing constant gossiping and lies from my manager after leaving I was told that manager read personal text messages between myself and her to the whole team in a board meeting and mocked them stating I was lying about a bereaved parent Thanks
Sarahdavis90 - 9-Nov-16 @ 9:29 PM
Mad mum- Your Question:
My husband has had a formal request for flexible working turned down. This request was for child care reasons and to enable me to start a University course through my employment. I have previously had to turn down promotions and training opportunities due to child care issues and his shift pattern. His company are asking for details regarding my employment (hours worked / whether I work flexible hours (I do) ) I have also in the past been asked to prove that I have had a major operation so that they will give him carers leave. Can they ask this information from me.

Our Response:
Please see ACAS link here which shows how employers should deal with the request for flexible working. If you do not find the information you need in this document, you may wish to give ACAS a direct call. Its advisers will be able to tell you whether your husband's employer is dealing with the process in a fair and reasonable manner.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 9-Nov-16 @ 1:42 PM
My husband has had a formal request for flexible working turned down. This request was for child care reasons and to enable me to start a University course through my employment. I have previously had to turn down promotions and training opportunities due to child care issues and his shift pattern. His company are asking for details regarding my employment (hours worked / whether I work flexible hours(I do) ) I have also in the past been asked to prove that I have had a major operation so that they will give him carers leave. Can they ask this information from me.
Mad mum - 8-Nov-16 @ 8:59 PM
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