Guidelines for monitoring staff email and internet use from the Information Commission (IC) have been delayed yet again.
The guidance, part of a document to help companies comply with the 1998 Data Protection Act (DPA), was originally due last year and was put back to January 2002. But it will not now be ready before the end of February, a spokeswoman for the IC confirmed.
In the draft version issued in 2000 the IC said that employers should only scrutinise staff email, internet and telephone activity when there is a suspicion of criminal activity or behaviour that contravenes conditions of employment.
Contradictions with government advice, however, forced the IC to look at the guidelines again.
But assistant Information Commissioner David Smith told vnunet.com that the final version is unlikely to be significantly different to the draft.
Legal experts are concerned that users will be left to negotiate a legal minefield until the IC's final guidelines are issued.
"There is something of a dichotomy between the DPA and the Lawful Business Regulations which has yet to be clarified," said Paula Barrett, partner at IT and ecommerce law firm Eversheds.
Separately, the IC has issued a guide to data protection auditing for users on CDRom and via the internet.
The Guide to Data Protection Auditing is aimed at users who want to undertake or commission their own data protection compliance audits, and small and medium sized organisations with limited experience and resources.
Information Commissioner Elizabeth France said: "Ensuring compliance with the data protection standards is not simply an issue of operating within the law; it is also about effective handling of personal information and respecting the interests of individual data subjects.
"I hope that this audit guide assists data controllers in addressing these important objectives."
Copies of the guide on CDRom are available free from the IC on 01625 545 700 and at the IC website.
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