Saturday, May 7, 2011

Technology, Law, and the Workplace: Week in Review

The worlds of technology and labor and employment law are always on a collision course, but this last week these areas seemed to intersect even more than usual. (Maybe I just have David Foley's "Worlds Colliding" post on the brain.) This week witnessed a host of news about technology-related employment and labor litigation, including settlement of the NLRB's threatened complaint against Thomson for the news organization's social media policy. Stories about the theft of customer payment information from Sony have also dominated the technology news, coming in the wake of the recent Apple location data scandal and Epsilon security breach.

The flurry of news relating to data security reminds me of a recent conversation with a colleague at the ABA National Symposium on Technology in Labor & Employment Law. The lawyer felt that the rhetoric about electronic information security is such that employers and other custodians might get the message that the law somehow demands perfection in their electronic storage system. He felt that this standard is misleading, insofar as the law only requires reasonable measures to protect information. He gave the example of the theft or other loss of a briefcase by an attorney on a crowded bus. In his view, the loss of the briefcase would only be actionable if the lawyer had not taken reasonable measures to protect the information.

There are many important distinctions that apply to the briefcase analogy. For example, the volume and ease of transmittal of electronic information could be interpreted to create correspondingly higher standards of reasonableness for electronic storage of confidential information. However, there is still an important lesson to be learned from this analogy: as the worlds of technology and employment and labor law interact on an ever-increasing basis, the law of the briefcase will evolve to account for the new electronic realities of the workplace. Who knows: maybe someday the concepts of social media or cloud computing may be as common and settled as the briefcase is today!

Technology in the Workplace
Technology and the Law More Generally
Technology in the News
  • Turning to Social Networks for News (NY Times)
  • A New Kissing Device Lets You Make Out Over The Internet (Fast Company)
  • Military Blogging Goes Mainstream (NY Times)
  • Trying to Stir Up a Popular Protest in China, From a Bedroom in Manhattan (NY Times)
  • Hackers Claim to Have PlayStation Users’ Card Data (Bits)

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