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September 19, 2008

No Privacy Interest in Fired Employee's Computers

A New Jersey Appeals court sided with the criminal trial courts ruling that a fired employee had no privacy interest in computers that he had sold to his employer and had protected with his own password. 

The New Jersey court noted that "Guided by these federal cases, we conclude that defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the personal information stored in his workplace computer. Braun owned the computers and kept them in CDP's office; Braun advised defendant at the inception of his employment that all CDP computers were company property; the tower was connected to CDP's network system, and the laptop contained business software; Braun had equal access to the computers, and a co-worker had access to the laptop; and defendant's private office was never closed or locked.

        Even if defendant had a subjective expectation of privacy because he used a confidential password, that expectation was unreasonable under the facts of this case. As noted in Rakas:

        Obviously, . . . a "legitimate" expectation of privacy by definition means more than a subjective expectation of not being discovered. A burglar plying his trade in a summer cabin during the off season may have a thoroughly justified subjective expectation of privacy, but it is not one which the law recognizes as "legitimate."

        [Rakas, supra, 439 U.S. at 128, 143 n.12, 99 S. Ct. at 431 n.12, 58 L. Ed. 2d at 402, n.12.]

        We conclude, therefore, that neither the law nor society recognize as legitimate defendant's subjective expectation of privacy in a workplace computer he used to commit a crime."

Read the opinion here: (New Jersey v. M.A., N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div., No. A-4922-06T4, 8/29/08). [MD]

September 19, 2008 | Permalink

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