Electronic workplace surveillance and employee privacy : a comparative analysis of privacy protection in Australia and the United States

Watt, James Robert (2009) Electronic workplace surveillance and employee privacy : a comparative analysis of privacy protection in Australia and the United States. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


More than a century ago in their definitive work “The Right to Privacy” Samuel D. Warren and Louis D. Brandeis highlighted the challenges posed to individual privacy by advancing technology. Today’s workplace is characterised by its reliance on computer technology, particularly the use of email and the Internet to perform critical business functions. Increasingly these and other workplace activities are the focus of monitoring by employers.

There is little formal regulation of electronic monitoring in Australian or United States workplaces. Without reasonable limits or controls, this has the potential to adversely affect employees’ privacy rights.

Australia has a history of legislating to protect privacy rights, whereas the United States has relied on a combination of constitutional guarantees, federal and state statutes, and the common law. This thesis examines a number of existing and proposed statutory and other workplace privacy laws in Australia and the United States.

The analysis demonstrates that existing measures fail to adequately regulate monitoring or provide employees with suitable remedies where unjustifiable intrusions occur. The thesis ultimately supports the view that enacting uniform legislation at the national level provides a more effective and comprehensive solution for both employers and employees.

Chapter One provides a general introduction and briefly discusses issues relevant to electronic monitoring in the workplace. Chapter Two contains an overview of privacy law as it relates to electronic monitoring in Australian and United States workplaces. In Chapter Three there is an examination of the complaint process and remedies available to a hypothetical employee (Mary) who is concerned about protecting her privacy rights at work. Chapter Four provides an analysis of the major themes emerging from the research, and also discusses the draft national uniform legislation. Chapter Five details the proposed legislation in the form of the Workplace Surveillance and Monitoring Act, and Chapter Six contains the conclusion.

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ID Code: 26536
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Lane, William
Keywords: workplace privacy, employee privacy rights, electronic monitoring, workplace surveillance, video surveillance, Internet and email monitoring, Privacy Act, information privacy, Fourth Amendment, Intrusion Upon Seclusion, technology and privacy, privacy tort, reasonable expectation of privacy, invasion of privacy, workplace privacy legislation
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 29 Jul 2009 00:00
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:53

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