Recently, while sitting in the waiting area of an out-patient surgical clinic, I was privy to one side of a cell phone conversation between a woman and a business associate. Apparently the woman was a social worker assigned to assist families with children who have gender identity issues. As the woman continued her conversation, discussing one particular family and giving intimate details of her meetings, I was astounded at the lack of concern for privacy. I learned the child’s full name (including the proper spelling of her first and last name), date of birth, social security number, street address—and then I learned her mother’s name and personal identification information as well. I was not alone.
First it was e-mail messages, next it was PDA messaging, and now it is blogs. These networking tools are all widely used by employees. They also sometimes become a source of contentious litigation when employers become concerned over the risk of corporate liability and public disclosure of confidential information that these new technologies pose.
With the advent of the Internet and the ability to send personal information to many places in very little time, privacy has become an important issue for businesses across the globe. How to retain the free flow of information without violating an individual’s right to privacy is a difficult balance to strike and one that different countries approach in various ways.