WA Facebook - Breach of Privacy by Employer

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17 November 2014
If an employee leaves their Facebook open on a company computer and it is read and it blatantly states in the messages they have been giving out private information to an ex employee from the company about the company clients, etc, can the employer use this information legally? Or does the Privacy Act override the employer being able to read Facebook messages left on a company computer?


The Privacy Act merely regulates the way individuals’ personal information is handled by a company - particularly how they collect, store and use personal information. It isn't really designed to apply to situations like this. The Privacy Act 1988 will apply to public employers and large private sector employers - and its provisions may apply to employee emails that include personal information, however it does not apply to workplace surveillance relating directly to information regarding the employee’s position with the company. If the employer is a small private company - the Privacy Act will not apply at all.

When it comes to individuals rights to privacy, there is no law or principal conferring any prima facie "right" to privacy. In the situation you have described above, I would think that since it is the employer's computer and premises where the activity occurred, the employer would be free to use the information that they had found. It may be different if you had intentionally accessed password protected information, or intercepted the messages somehow electronically, however this does not appear to be the case. Employers are permitted to monitor staff emails that are sent on work computers so in this situation I don't see why you couldn't use information that was left on the screen of an employee's computer.

I am interested to hear opinions from other forum members.


Well-Known Member
11 July 2014
Does the employer have an IT policy which the employee agreed to as part of the employment contract? If so, reviewing this would be my starting point