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What to Do If Your Privacy is Invaded at Work

By: Matthew Strawbridge - Updated: 22 May 2024 | 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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In a meeting we had to fill in various forms. The data itself was not particularly sensitive. But after the meeting we were told all forms wil be viewable by all my piers.Any one who did not pass the information in would be shamed. Although it may sound trivial is it an invasion of my privacy to publish my work without my permission. (I have very bad handwriting which has dogged me all my life and I don't share hand written documentsas a rule. I feel it it will reduce my standing in the company)
Dave - 22-May-24 @ 6:48 AM
My manager found me jerking off in the toilets as I’m a registered sex addict. He told everyone.
Dazza - 13-Apr-24 @ 8:24 AM
Hoping someone can help. So I've had a grievance put in against me at work due to my wages by a co-worker. According to them I have shown everyone in my office my payslip so everyone knows what I earn, might I add that I have absolutely never done this nor ever will. Do I have the right to know who has made the grievance? As surely its my confidentiality that's been breached if they have seen my payslip.
Lauren - 25-Feb-24 @ 2:55 PM
Hello there I trust I find you well. The reason why I write to you is to seek advice concerning my employers allegations over company disrepute. My employer has accused me ofbringing forth negative publicity towards her business over allegations of dating a co worker. Please kindly advise on what measures I can take to protect myself.
Joejbreezy - 24-Feb-24 @ 11:20 PM
I was sent home poorly from work and either a colleague has told my employer i attended my daughters nativity or my daughters school have and now I am facing disciplinary procedures. For the colleague, How did they know? How did they know the school? The year group? The time and date of the nativity? How did they know I was there? Is this a breach? If it was her school, surely that is a breach? Furthermore my employer using this information for emotional distress, is that allowed?
Mamabear - 21-Jan-24 @ 8:23 AM
I had a very personal opperation 2 years ago and know for a fact that my line manager has disclosed this to a friend of theirs that they have met in a chat room. I know it for a fact as my manager has told me that this person has a given me a nickname linked to the opperation. The person that my mamager chats to lives in another country so they haven't actually met in person. I also know for a fact that information about other staff members has also been shared.
Vm77 - 15-Jan-24 @ 2:39 PM
During a working day I had a file note about something very small however another colleague who was working the following day was telling me that she knew, however all conversations are strict between management and myself. Would I be able to make a complaint due to a possible leak/ breech of information?
Kkk - 21-Sep-23 @ 11:26 AM
A customer who i never knew was telling my section leader and another colleague he knew me, i didn't know him. He started throwing distant relative names at me, which showed he knew at least my family name. I kept saying I didn't have them as family, denying I knew them . then he told me my sisters name and i said No that isn't her name, i don't have a sister of that name, as i didn't know him, my section leader then said " yes her sisters name is that but she doesn't talk to her now" is this a breach of privacy or confidentiality as I never wanted a stranger to know i was her sister.
lillywarhammer - 29-Apr-22 @ 8:32 PM
I started a job recently and My co-worker went through my boss' desk and took pictures of my personal information and of my pay and of my hours. He went around showing other co-workers what I made that week and how many hours I had and how much I made an hour. He was very jealous and mad that I made more than him and went around saying "big money" and talking smack telling others he was mad I made more than him and I didn't deserve it, which for the record i have my certifications and degree and went to school for 7 years.. But this made a very hostile work environment and really upset me and I ended up getting let go after this because of them making up lies and drama and they told me I was the best employee and excellent at what I did but I just wasn't a good fit they didn't have a reason and I know its because of employees hating on me and causing issues. This is not right! And it cant be legal for someone to go through my personal information and take pictures of my hours and pay I feel very violated and I was let go only because the co-workers were jealous I made more.
Bamaboy - 10-Jun-21 @ 1:56 PM
I work for a large food business. We have a new manager. She gained access to the Facebook messenger group we use for chat inside the team. This is not official or set up by the company, we talk about work stuff but also other things. Sometimes work messages, fot example asking if someone can come in and cover last minute, or asking if anyone knows where something is will be sent by someone at work, but nearly all the talk is outside work hours. She saw some negative comments about her, and has now forwarded everything on to the area manager. I feel that my privacy has been invaded, that this was a private group, she has acted unethically and possibly broken GDPR. Am I right, and what should I do. Other workmates are also very angry.
Anna - 2-Apr-21 @ 10:41 AM
Two days ago I found that someone has brocken into my locked drawer in the office and a few items missing.I emailed the office members and asked if anyone knows about it.One of our colleagues rang and told me who he was. In fact she told him it's not right to break others drawer and mess-up with their belongings buy the guy responded he has right to do so! Should I report him to HR? The missing docking station and IT equipment worth about £350.
KM - 17-Mar-21 @ 11:39 PM
My boss left his password protected account left open I went on thinking it was a works account and found personal information about me and looked at it. Is this a day breach
Nads - 27-Jan-21 @ 10:17 AM
My last employer leaked my criminal record which is a Megan’s law registry and they know someone in my new workplace and they were told about my record and I have no idea what to do. Please help
Tex - 12-Dec-20 @ 7:03 PM
I am virtually teaching a Special Ed student. I had a feeling that they were sitting in on our Meetings and heard whispering etc. also the student hasn't been her self. Last week, I talked to the teacher I work under. I told him think the parents have been sitting with their daughter while I'm working One on One with out my knowledge and I was uncomfortable. Finally, when I was helping the student, with an assignment on Seesaw,during our Microsoft Teams meeting, The Dad jumped in and was really rude to me. The Dad told me The Seesaw App we was a waste of his daughterstime. I told the teacher I work under that I was uncomfortable, and felt the parents were watching me secretly and areup to something. The teacher advised me to send a detailed email and send it to VP and CC Resource Teacher Stephanie, and him. I was concerned and said, what's going on. He knew something, but was vague and was obviously told not to tell me. He saidtrust me its important, be factual and leave my feelings out ofit? Anyway, I assumed they had complained, and I needed to cover my butt. Anyway, that was on a Wed. I sent the detailed email about he situation to The VP. I still haven't got a reply from VP and it's now Sunday. The Teacher finally,told me Friday, that the parents have been recording me? I was shockedupset no one hadtold me?I contacted my Union Rep and she said I should have been told asap and I need to stop working with this student. She said that it is illegal to record someone without consent and they should've known this, andand told me right away and removed from that work assignment for my protection and my privacy? She also told me to go into the office Monday morning first thing and tell VP I'm not working with this student anymore and that I'm following the Union Reps advise. Also, tell the VP I wanted to be reassigned to different student. Well, I'm really upset the VP didn't let me he knew that the parents were illegally recording me, I thought they were just sitting in spying, and he still hasn't got back to me, he said he's was busy. He should have followed some sort of legal protiocal that could've prevented me from being recorded any further, Right ?Also, what are my rights as far the parents recording me without consent? I didn't say or do anything wrong but I feel by violated by parents andnot protected by my VP. I upset Thanks
Trace - 5-Oct-20 @ 1:44 AM
Can an employer phone an ex partner of yours and ask personal information about your life and what has been going on?
scotlad - 1-Oct-20 @ 11:53 AM
10 yrs ago. I went from full time to term time employment . i've been with my local government employer for 18 years.its come to like. 10 years ago they dint put me on the right pay scale. so now i owe them 24k.which they want back. I had a issue at work about a promotion.. an email was sent to me regarding this issue, along with. its come to like that youve been overpaid in your job. though your pay has now been adjusted, outstanding money is owed. this was CC'd to 5 other people.. My manager, their manager, HR advisor( i agree Head of payroll neededthe info...along with head of HR which is who was dealing with my issue. I feel embarrassed now others know. do the others really need to know, its not as if they could help of assist me in sorting this out. I feel my private and confidential information has been breeched.
busylikeme - 25-Sep-20 @ 4:15 PM
I recently had to re-locate to another state due to being stalked...I haven’t told anyone here But my manager and she sent an email to our team with my home address on it. Is there a way I could sue due to this? I had a history with this problem In my previous city and even had my corporate security involved.
Sharon - 23-Sep-20 @ 12:41 AM
I have found out I’m pregnant. I’ve been with the company for two years and everyone is great, my assistant manager is not a popular figure within our workplace but is nothing more than a little irritating at best ?? . I’ve had a risk assessment done by my manager who has had to tell the assistant manager. I’ve asked for nothing to be said as I haven’t told my youngest child and some family menebers due to miscarriage before. I’ve found out she has been telling everyone and gossiping knowing I’ve asked her to keep quiet until I’ve reached my 12 weeks. What can I do if anything in this situation.
Rubes - 19-Aug-20 @ 4:18 PM
I started a new job and after 3 days I had to stop and shield for 4 months due to my medical condition. The only people who I told about my condition where my manager and HR as they had to receive copies of my nhs letters. 2 days into my return to work a co worker I had just recently met asked me how I was coping with my condition. I was surprised as to how she knew about it and I was upset because I realised someone must have told people about it. I’m not sure what to do but I feel like my privacy has been violated. I thought that was my personal information and to be shared on a need to know basis and I don’t think my coworkers needed to know. Some of my friends and family don’t even know I have this condition why should I tell people who are still strangers to me
Mmafox - 15-Aug-20 @ 1:43 AM
I am a manager, I keep notes from one to one meetings with staff and some personal data of my in a notebook. On my day off this notebook was on my desk closed, a member of staff opened and read it and then proceeded to put the notebook under her coat and shared it with 3 other members of staff (all caught on CCTV) I am now being accused of Gross Misconduct, which wouldn't occur if this member of staff hadn't snooped through this notebook and physically shared it.... I admit I normally lock it away but it was in my office space!! First offence on an impeccable staff record sheet
Reg - 7-Aug-20 @ 7:12 AM
I had a personal conversation with someone not related to work in my own time at home about an employee.Now my company are using it against me, can they do this?
jay - 5-Aug-20 @ 5:36 PM
A coworker has printed and posted in her work desk photos taken approx 5 years ago,, of us without my consent. Is it ilegal? I have every right to request her to take photos down.
Light - 6-Jul-20 @ 8:24 AM
My deputy manager discussed how pissed off she was with me for ringing in sick due to the stress of one of my seniors and I having a disagreement. She told the staff about what had happened even though it was not on their shift. She then rang me at home and said I had to come to work, which she has done a few times when I have rung in sick. Would just like some advice please.
Deedee - 30-Jun-20 @ 12:11 AM
My supervisor disclosed that I was pregnant to my boss without my permission when I specifically told her “NO ONE else knows and I want it to stay that way”. She also said it in front of two other employees and a daughter of an employee.
abcdefg - 26-Jun-20 @ 12:10 AM
My daughter's boss has accessed her private messenger by logging in her FB account and using her saved password without telling her during furlough. The message was derogatory about her boss and were written out of hours on her own device, yet her boss has now started Gross Misconduct proceedings. The boss is mentioned only by her first name, and the name of the company is not mentioned. It was addressed to her own brother. We know the boss clicked on at least one other my daughter's friend. We feel it is an invasion of privacy and abuse of from the boss. She applied for a job, got it and informed her boss she was leaving. The GM proceeding were started AFTER she informed the boss of her new job. Does an employer have such a right as it was out of hours, at home, on her own laptop?
maz - 20-Jun-20 @ 3:58 PM
My boss had me send an email to our district manager because my boyfriend(I’m gay) had been tested for covid 19 my coworkers no I’m gay but I still have family that does not and before this I’m pretty sure my dm did not know so I send the email and it was then forwarded to the entire district this is a breach of my security and I’m not just over reacting right??
J210 - 15-May-20 @ 6:17 PM
My MD printed all the staffs (from the cleaner to him and everyone in-between) full names, personal emails, personal mobile numbers and home addresses which were the distributed one each to all the staff "incase of emergency". He only panicked and took them back after a family member who works for the company realised what he was doing when I told them
James - 8-Apr-20 @ 7:37 PM
A letter containing personal information about myself was used as a template letter to send a similar letter to another colleague. However, some information was left in the second letter, identifying me as having the same issues as my colleague. This was information I made clear I did not want discussing with any of my colleagues. I did no event tell my closest friend in the workplace of my personal issue. However, the colleague who received the second letter approached me with her letter telling me what had happened.
Lily123 - 16-Feb-20 @ 7:11 AM
My boss opened my office drawer and overhead cabinets and took pictures then send them to one of my colleagues to show his (Boss's)office space was cleaner than mine. Does this amount to breach of privacy.
FA - 29-Jan-20 @ 10:42 AM
2 co-workers looked at my personal files without my authorization and others files. They then told people of the others background check.
Concerned - 27-Jan-20 @ 9:39 PM
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