Privacy in the time of COVID-19
Victorian ruling clarifies application of privacy principles to social media accounts
Reports and Surveys Update

Privacy in the time of COVID-19

By Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham, Michelle Aggromito and Rebecca Gill

Nothing can stop us from talking about privacy, including a pandemic! Yesterday, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) issued guidance on the collection, use and disclosure of personal information during the COVID-19 pandemic (Guidance). 

It mainly serves as a reminder to organisations that even in these pressing times, they must comply with the Australian privacy regime. However, it also highlights what organisations can collect and do with personal information for the purposes of preventing and managing the spread of COVID-19.

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Victorian ruling clarifies application of privacy principles to social media accounts

By Cameron Abbott and Rebecca Murray

The Victorian Supreme Court recently confirmed that an employer was not obliged to immediately notify an employee that it was accessing her Facebook messages during a disciplinary investigation. This case clarifies the manner in which the Victorian Information Privacy Principles (IPPs) apply to social media.

In this case, an employer conducted an investigation into an employee after a colleague reported her for making a number of abusive remarks over Facebook. During the investigation, the employer accessed the employee’s Facebook messages without her knowledge. She was subsequently found guilty of misconduct and given a final warning.

The employee appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Victoria after the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) found that her employer had complied with the IPPs. In her appeal, she questioned whether the ways her employer collected and used the information was necessary “for the purposes of a workplace disciplinary investigation” and whether accessing it without her knowledge or consent was “necessary for one or more of the organisations functions or activities’ for the purposes of IPP 1.1”.

The Supreme Court of Victoria confirmed VCAT’s finding that collecting further information was necessary under IPP 1.1 as the employer was conducting a misconduct investigation “which was a legitimate purpose” and said there was nothing to suggest its approach was inconsistent with the right to privacy. Furthermore, the court found that VCAT was correct in finding that IPP 1.3 (and 1.5) did not impose an obligation of immediate notification on the employer as it could have jeopardised the integrity of the disciplinary investigation. Access the IPPs here. and read the court’s decision here.

Importantly, this case demonstrates that privacy law doesn’t automatically prevent employers from accessing the social media accounts of their employees to conduct investigations in appropriate circumstances.

Reports and Surveys Update

by Jim Bulling and Julia Baldi

Tred Micro Q1 2015 Report
Trend Micro Q1 2015 Report finds Australia is the target of increasing ransomware attacks, with Australian holding 6% of the world’s ransomware detections. Australia also ranked second in the world for countries with the highest number of Point of Sale RAM Scraper infections (malware which sources card details) with 10% of the world’s infections, after the United States  with 23%.

See a summary of the report here, and the full report here.

Blue Coat Systems Inc
Blue Coat Systems, Inc., released result of a global research study of 1,580 respondents across 11 countries. Results from the survey found that universally, workers visit inappropriate websites while at work despite typically being fully aware of the risks to their companies.

See the media release here.

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