Regulated individuals may not be able to rely on a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to private messages on social media platforms if the messages suggest a serious breach of professional standards.

The Court of Session (Inner House) has upheld a decision that police officers could have had no reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to inappropriate WhatsApp group chat messages, given their duty at all times to abide by professional standards of honesty, integrity and impartiality and to report improper conduct. The employer was therefore entitled to use the messages (discovered during the course of a separate criminal investigation) as the basis for misconduct proceedings. (BC v Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland)

The same is likely to apply to individuals working in regulated industries such as financial services, and suggests that employers or regulators are likely to be able to take action on the basis of otherwise private messages that come to their attention and which suggest a serious breach of professional standards.

Anna Henderson
Anna Henderson
Professional Support Consultant, London
+44 20 7466 2819