It has been announced by the Employment Relations Authority that as a result of a case involving Air New Zealand and an employee, employers now have the right to force employees to grant access to their Facebook pages. Aside from being wrong on so many different levels of privacy, this begs some critical questions about where one draws the line between needing to know and being intrusive.
The employee who lost her case against Air New Zealand had to grant the airline access to her Facebook account. The airline, which is a major New Zealand employer with more than 10,000 employees on its books demanded to know what she was doing on 08 and 09 March 2013. When the employee refused to grant access, she was sacked.
This is just the latest in a line of erosive events in terms of protecting New Zealanders privacy and comes as the Government finds increasingly strong resistance to the G.C.S.B. in Parliament. It follows the case of Bruce Taiapa, a man who was dismissed for misuse of leave after his employer noticed he had been involved in a waka ama competition when he was supposed to be on sick leave. In that particular case there was a clear instance of him having misused the leave. The case involving the Air New Zealand employee is before the courts.
The most effective policy is the most obvious one. Watch what you say and be honest with your boss about your leave intentions. Of course there will be times when one is angry with their employer or times when one wants to attend events but the boss says no. But one should know where and when is an appropriate time to vent frustrations.
However intrusions are intrusions. A line has to be drawn between needing to know and spying. Most employers make an honest effort to comply with privacy laws, but they need to exist because there will always be a small number of employers who feel that they are above the law. Those few employers are likely to have no regard for their employees well being or a sense of ethics.
I do not want to think that it is necessary to introduce new laws guarding the privacy of New Zealanders. However the level of spying and the number of known lapses in Government departments is so numerous it is almost like the Privacy Act does not apply to the Government.
But it does.