The Harmful Digital Communications Bill is the government’s response to the Law Commission’s findings that existing legislation does not effectively address new forms of harm made possible by digital communication.
The Bill will change the Privacy Act. Currently, the Privacy Act does not apply where an individual collects or holds personal information for his or her own personal, family, or household affairs.
This means that the Privacy Act does not apply when people publish invasive and distressing photos of others they know in their personal capacity.
That is about to change. The Bill will amend the Harassment, Privacy and Human Rights Acts. The exemption in the Privacy Act will cease to apply once personal information is collected, disclosed, or used, if that collection, disclosure, or use is highly offensive.
What does this mean for employers?
Most employers will have internet and email use policies, which prohibit employees from using internet or email facilities in a way which:-
- Breaches the employer’s code of conduct;
- Which brings the employer into disrepute;
- Constitutes harassment of any kind; or
- Discloses personal information (including photos) about colleagues without their consent.
The coming of the Bill means that now is a good time for employers to remind employees about the standards expected when an employee is using their employer’s email or internet facilities.