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The right to snoop

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I'm grateful to Carol Baker, Editor at the BusinessZONE our sister site for small businesses for the following editorial.

From 24 October 2000, employers will be able to snoop on employees' e-mails and phone calls following a government decision allowing companies "routine access" to assess whether e-mails and phones calls made during office hours are business-related.

The move has been criticised by trade unions which believe that employers should not be allowed to snoop on staff without consent, and propose to use the Human Rights Act to challenge the snooping rules.

But Patricia Hewitt, the Minister for E-commerce and Small Business has denied that the rules would allow businesses a free hand to snoop, saying that the rules place limitations on employers not to intercept personal calls for "unjustified scurrilous interest".

However, the introduction of the rules places a further burden on businesses, as employers face a mass of overlapping regulations on monitoring staff. This week, the Data Protection Commission is due to publish a draft code of practice on workplace surveillance, covering everything from e-mail monitoring to the use of CCTV cameras and random drugs testing.

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