Feeds

Judge: Your boss has no right to your emails held by a third party

Unless you've signed something. And they can find it

High performance access to file storage

Staff emails can’t just be accessed by a company whenever it feels like it, a UK High Court Judge has ruled, in what could be a guiding case on email privacy.

A marine transport company was trying to get access to the emails of a former chief executive, but Justice Edwards-Stuart ruled that the content of emails is not the firm’s property by default and so it can’t have them.

The case kicked off when Dutch-based Dockwise took over its rival Fairstar Heavy Transport in a hostile takeover in July this year. Once Dockwise got in the door though, it realised that Fairstar owed a hefty sum of money to a Chinese shipyard.

The company now claims that former CEO Philip Adkins, who resigned as soon as Dockwise moved in, never told the Dutch company about the debt in the run-up to the takeover. Dockwise took Adkins to court to try to get access to Adkins' emails to see what he had said about the debt and the takeover.

The whole thing was complicated by the fact that Adkins had been seconded by Dockwise from another company, Cadenza Management, which was actually his employer - so all of his emails had been forwarded from Fairstar’s servers to his Cadenza address.

Dockwise claims that Fairstar’s servers had deleted the emails when they sent them on to Adkins' other address, a claim that Adkins disagrees with.

Wherever the emails are located, the judge said they were not the property of Dockwise.

“There are no compelling practical reasons that support the existence of a proprietary right - indeed, practical considerations militate against it,” he said.

The only way that emails could belong to a firm is if they contained copyrighted material or confidential information or if the employee’s signed contract with the firm already said so.

“In my judgment it is clear that the preponderance of authority points strongly against there being any proprietary right in the content of information, and this must apply to the content of an email, although I would not go so far as to say that this is now settled law,” he added. ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Whoever you vote for, Google gets in
Report uncovers giant octopus squid of lobbying influence
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Banks slap Olympus with £160 MEEELLION lawsuit
Scandal hit camera maker just can't shake off its past
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.