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What to Do If Your Privacy is Invaded at Work

By: Matthew Strawbridge - Updated: 18 Jan 2018 | 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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My colleague went into my drawers and searched a personal bag, with both work & personal documents in, on a day when i was not in the office. She then had our manager search the bag, again on a day when i was not present. According to HR dept, anything in the office is 'fair game' for anyone to look at. The issue was that they thought a work document shouldn't have been accessible - drawers had no lock. Strangely, the manager then left the bag on top of my keyboard with a note to file appropriately. I feel my privacy has been completely violated by both. Does my colleague or manager have the right to do this?
Rae - 18-Jan-18 @ 8:13 PM
Is it OK for a new colleague to put the working days and hours of all other colleagues on the same department in his phone for his own records. He is trying to take as much overtime as he wants which is upsetting other colleagues. I am furious to learn he has my working pattern in his possession and feel this is a breach of my privacy what can I do
Cazza - 26-Dec-17 @ 9:29 PM
Jan - Your Question:
Myself and 3 colleagues have got private messenger on are phones where we can all talk to each other, we all was complaining about things that was going on in work, and how we are not happy with are boss, calling her a slave driver, and how where gonna look for another job, but the boss seen part of the message on friends phone, and now she gave us all letters and put in our files, can she do this

Our Response:
If your employer has concerns or a complaint about your work, they may decide to take disciplinary action against you.There are a number of reasons why your employer may decide to take disciplinary action against you. These include your: behaviour at work, absence from work and/or standard of work. Please see CAB link here which should help answer your question.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 30-Nov-17 @ 3:03 PM
Myself and 3 colleagues have got private messenger on are phones where we can all talk to each other, we all was complaining about things that was going on in work, and how we are not happy with are boss, calling her a slave driver, and how where gonna look for another job, butthe boss seen part of the message on friends phone, and now she gave us all letters and put in our files, can she do this
Jan - 30-Nov-17 @ 10:12 AM
My very large utility company has a 201 page report on me following alleged bully and harassment against myself , following an external company carrying an investigation I was cleared of all allegations. I was removed from my role on the evidence of the report supposedly for my own good, I still work for the company but in a different dept ,but ,the person/s who made and backed the false allegations took two years sick leave to avoid facing the recommendations of the external company and face legal actions of lying,after the two years he was allowed back in to the company and to take up his old role. I have requested the 201 report but I'm told that due to it having several different employees named in the report I'm not allowed to see it, yet I'm aware of the people in the report as at the time I was managing these people and had to release them to attend at the time what I was informed as interviews by the external source to aid there understanding of the whole investigation.Im told I can request this report but it maybe doctored so i cannot see the names of other people in the report.....is this correct?
Steveb - 12-Nov-17 @ 5:19 PM
My very large utility company has a 201 page report on me following alleged bully and harassment against myself , following an external company carrying an investigation I was cleared of all allegations. I was removed from my role on the evidence of the report supposedly for my own good, I still work for the company but in a different dept ,but ,the person/s who made and backed the false allegations took two years sick leave to avoid facing the recommendations of the external company and face legal actions of lying,after the two years he was allowed back in to the company and to take up his old role. I have requested the 201 report but I'm told that due to it having several different employees named in the report I'm not allowed to see it, yet I'm aware of the people in the report as at the time I was managing these people and had to release them to attend at the time what I was informed as interviews by the external source to aid there understanding of the whole investigation.Im told I can request this report but it maybe doctored so i cannot see the names of other people in the report.....is this correct?
Steveb - 10-Nov-17 @ 6:18 PM
My very large utility company has a 201 page report on me following alleged bully and harassment against myself , following an external company carrying an investigation I was cleared of all allegations. I was removed from my role on the evidence of the report supposedly for my own good, I still work for the company but in a different dept ,but ,the person/s who made and backed the false allegations took two years sick leave to avoid facing the recommendations of the external company and face legal actions of lying,after the two years he was allowed back in to the company and to take up his old role. I have requested the 201 report but I'm told that due to it having several different employees named in the report I'm not allowed to see it, yet I'm aware of the people in the report as at the time I was managing these people and had to release them to attend at the time what I was informed as interviews by the external source to aid there understanding of the whole investigation.Im told I can request this report but it maybe doctored so i cannot see the names of other people in the report.....is this correct?
Steveb - 10-Nov-17 @ 5:13 PM
Grandson at work, working as apprentice property manager. The director for some reason has a problem with him and is always trying to make his life difficult. The latest being:- he went to the toilet and took his mobile with him as young ones do, she followed and stood outside the door whilst he was sat there! his phone rang... upon answering he told caller he would call back at 5pm. The director then confronted him as soon as he exited the toilet and had a go at him, surely this is classed as invasion of his privacy and she shouldn't be allowed to do this. Your advice would be most welcome.
Skye - 25-Sep-17 @ 5:41 PM
An ex director removed for gross misconduct left his bank details opein his works computer. The account page opened to see if any money had been taken. It had not so the conputer was closed down. What offence had been commited when nothing was changed or removed?
Bevvy - 18-Sep-17 @ 9:35 PM
My HR has sent 650 employees p60 to a warehouse worker who has leaked information regarding wages and tax information what can I do.
Winnie2033 - 12-Sep-17 @ 7:24 PM
I was recently informed that a coworker saw some of my private information (really just how much I make and how many hours I got for the pay period) and has shown another coworker. The first coworker approached our manager upset with how much I am being paid and the hours I worked. My manager said she had left the hours she sent in face down in the fax machine so he had to go looking for the information. Upon reviewing the camera's that are in her office she was able to see everything he did, including bring in the second coworker and show him. I am new here and feel very uncomfortable that this happened. Is there anything I can do to assure that this never happens again?
SKO - 5-Sep-17 @ 7:37 PM
Morning, I am in between changing jobs and have been told a week ago by my manager to stay home until my notice ends at the end of this month as my replacement was already planned. A couple of days later as I wanted to access my work e-mail to print confidential information such as bonuses, communication between my head of department about things at work I realised that my e-mail had been changed to the name of one of my colleagues. I did set up in the past an emergency recovery e-mail in case I forget the password of my work email. When the email address got changed I received notifications that my email had been set up and accessed on another device (my colleague's mobile). A couple of days later I receive another one saying that the emergency email had been changed. I suspect that the company only changed the name and password of my email to the ones of my colleague but don't have a clue if the emails have been deleted. I sent her a message with no response. Is all this right? Thank you
Londonisto - 14-Aug-17 @ 10:06 AM
I am in the process of being disciplined at work and have been told that my manager has discussed the disciplinary with other staff members inbetween meetings what should I do and what is the likely outcome
Mark - 7-Jul-17 @ 6:48 PM
My boss asked me if I was having an affair with a colleague after I bought a car from him . He then asked me if I was having an affair with a shop manager who is lesbian because we had become friends . I'm furious that I've been asked this and my sexuality has been questioned . I'm already in a relationship with my long term partner
Lilo - 20-Jun-17 @ 7:52 PM
I recently left my job three months ago and hadn't received my p45 or p60 I then had received a phone call from a person who works at the school stating my p45 and p60 had been sent to her address and she had opened the letters assuming it was hers as she didn't check the name at the front. This however holds all my earning my national insurance date of birth and full name on it. Is this breach of data protection ?
Jade - 9-Jun-17 @ 12:15 PM
@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
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