Damages payable by employer for preventing access to an employee’s iTunes library, AOL, LinkedIn and WhatsApp accounts

The claimant received damages for his employer’s negligent accessing of his internet accounts.

Mark Richmond v Selecta Systems Limited - 14 06 2018 Bristol  High Court EWHC 1446

Executive Summary

The claimant received damages for his employer’s negligent accessing of his internet accounts.

In detail

The defendant sought to manage the claimant, their Sales Director out of the company. The defendant’s Managing Director used the passwords given to him by the claimant to go into the claimant’s AOL and iCloud accounts to check for company information. Unintentionally he reset the passwords which locked the claimant out of his accounts. He was also unable to download his iTunes music library.

The decision

The defendant owed a duty of care to the claimant in relation to the internet accounts.

The defendant’s employees were not prohibited from using company equipment for personal purposes.

The defendant was entitled to protect its business by accessing the claimant’s telephone & to go into the claimant’s AOL and iCloud accounts to discover whether there was company information on it and if necessary delete it.

They were not entitled to alter the security details of the accounts. The mere fact that the claimant gave them his passwords did not authorise the change.

Conclusion/Implications

Whilst the defendant was entitled to access the accounts the defendant in its zeal to hunt down information belonging to the company altered important security details of accounts belonging to the claimant.

The defendant should have sought further advice or discussed the matter with the claimant rather than taking steps which altered the claimant’s use of his personal internet accounts.

His loss was assessed at £1,000. That award was so modest due to the lack of evidence produced to value his losses save for the iTunes library costing £600. Future awards supported by better evidence are likely to be considerably higher.

The case underlines the need for searches to be done by appropriately qualified IT personnel to ensure in the search for company information security details are not altered.

If this case raises any issues for you or your organisation please speak to your usual contact in the Weightmans Employment, Pensions and Immigration or Insurance teams or speak to Roddy Macleod (roddy.macleod@weightmans.com).

Share on Twitter