Employment Update July 2009: Confidentiality

23 July 2009

Employment Group

Anonymous ‘blogging’ is a public activity and may give rise to a claim for breach of confidence

In The author of a blog v Times Newspapers, a police officer who was the author of an anonymous blog known as ‘Night Jack’, which was ‘overtly political and highly critical of central and local policing strategies’, tried to get a High Court injunction to prevent a newspaper from revealing his identity. The High Court refused.

Blogging is a public activity, even if carried out anonymously.

The claimant argued that, if his identity was known, he might face disciplinary action by his employer as his contract included a provision requiring him to ‘treat information with respect and access or disclose it only in the proper course of police duties’. The High Court had no sympathy with him. A confidentiality obligation to the employer is total and did not mean that it was acceptable for such information to be divulged anonymously or in his spare time.

Point to note –

  • The High Court has stated the obvious regarding the public nature of the internet and the extent of an employee’s obligation not to disclose information confidential to his or her employer. Although this is a common law, and an unwritten obligation, employers are well-advised to include appropriately worded confidentiality clauses in employee service contracts. We shall be happy to advise further.