Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Conn. court finds no expectation of privacy in employee computer

In Dickman v. Warden, the Superior Court of Connecticut held that an employee had no reasonable expectation of privacy in her work computer despite the company not following their policy for obtaining those files. 2012 Conn. Super. LEXIS 257 (Conn. Super. Ct. 2012).

Dickman was suspected of worker's compensation fraud and using her work computer to conduct private business. As a result, her employer obtained files from her work computer and turned them over to the local prosecutor. The prosecutor found evidence of falsified probate documents, and Dickman was ultimately convicted of forgery.

On appeal, Dickman claimed that she had a reasonable expectation of privacy in her work computer. The computer was not shared but was in a shared area. Also, the employer had a policy allowing entrance into the computer for criminal investigations or where there was a credible allegation of policy violations. The latter required approval from a committee as well as the vice president, a process which was not followed in this case.

The appellate court ruled that despite the policy not being strictly followed, Dickman could not claim to have a reasonable expectation of privacy because "an employee such as petitioner would reasonably be aware that such information stored on the computer could be retrieved on such an allegation" as worker's comp fraud or conducting private business.


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