South Carolina Lawyer
SC Lawyer, May 2006, #2.
The Electronic Workplace: Blogs, Cybersmears and Similar Challenges
South Carolina LawyerMay 2006The Electronic Workplace: Blogs, Cybersmears and Similar ChallengesBy William H. Floyd III and James T. HedgepathIM'd lately? If not, maybe you were too busy blogging. Or maybe you were taking pictures with your camera phone, using your new credit card sized GPS unit to locate the nearest Chinese restaurant, downloading music to your IPod or learning how to use your Blackberry PDA. With so many new hi-tech devices to choose from, how can you keep up with all of the rapidly changing technology? Of even greater significance to your practice, what impact do these relatively recent technological advances have on employees and employers, the security of proprietary information and individual privacy?
In less time than needed to read this article, someone could easily use a camera phone to copy confidential documents; a disgruntled employee could post trade secrets on his Web log, "blog" for short; or an instant messaging conversation could result in a sexual harassment claim. Notice the theme? While mobile phones, camera phones, GPS units, personal digital assistants (PDAs), blogs, e-mail and many more electronic tools have become convenient time saving devices for attorneys and their clients, they also bring added risk. Although this risk can arise in almost all areas of practice, this article focuses on an area that most attorneys deal with in some way: the electronic workplace.
Camera phones and mobile phones
The days of lugging around the five pound "mobile" phone bag are long gone. Most individuals now have mobile phones that weigh just a few ounces. In 2005, more than half of the mobile phones purchased in the United States were camera phones. Within a few years, according to industry estimates, all cell phones will have a camera, at least, and likely many additional electronic functions. Of all the new electronic devices on the market, camera phones probably pose the most risk to employers. They provide a user the opportunity to photograph almost anything or anyone at a moment's notice. Camera phones are portable, concealable and almost indistinguishable from a regular mobile phone.
Allowing camera phones in the workplace can lead to unintended consequences for the employer and its employees. For example, an employee, vendor or other visitor could use a camera phone to take pictures of employees or proprietary processes or information. This could lead to discrimination and harassment claims or disclosure of confidential information.
Text messaging is another byproduct of mobile phones. Without actually calling an individual, a mobile phone user can send a message, similar to e-mail, to another mobile phone user. Further, many mobile phones now allow users to attach text or image files to a text message. Thus, a mobile phone or camera phone user may be able to appropriate confidential information without even...