Workplace technology and confidentiality

Workplace technology and confidentiality

It is not unusual for new technology and its applications to bump awkwardly against existing legal principles.  Finding the most appropriate mechanisms for addressing new-fangled mischief sometimes requires lawyers to experiment and innovate.  As in any other walk of life this can be spectacularly successful first time and on occasion it may necessitate a more iterative approach.

The rise of electronic communications and social media has presented challenges.  Recently there seems to have been a flurry of cases relating to the (mis)appropriation by employees of information which their employers believe 'belongs' to them.  In the dark ages this might have entailed photocopying lists of customers or proprietary designs.  In the digital age the issue can become a little more blurred.

The law of confidentiality has done a good job over the years addressing most issues in this regard.  Contractual provisions are often put in place to complement the common law and there are important practical measures that can be implemented in order to counter abuse - see our note on Confidentiality and employees.

Lawyers have been quick to seize upon the use of other mechanisms to supplement their arsenal in these circumstances.  This can be particularly useful in instances where there is some question over whether the information in question meets the classic 'necessary quality of confidence' test in Coco v AN Clark (Engineers) [1969] RPC 41.

In Crowson Fabrics Ltd v Rider [2007] EWHC 2942 (Ch) ,

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