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March 26, 2001
Laid Off Workers Often Locked Out of PCs
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le Kathy Fionte was being told she was being laid off by Lucent Technologies, the company was busy deleting her computer login.

When she returned to her desk, she met security guards who told her to clean out her desk and leave, the New York Times reported.

"I said, 'Can I get on the computer?" Fionte was quoted, "And they said, 'No, your login is gone."

Fionte lost a collection of personal data she felt comfortable enough to leave on her office computer, such as names and addresses of friends and contact information for her summer rental.

As companies lay off employees, they must consider who owns the personal data employees store on their office computers, and what rights do they have to retrieve it. Court and statute rulings protect a person's physical property, the Times reported, but do not generally apply to electronic property.

"It's the employer's computer, and as long as the employer has a policy of saying that it's not for personal use, then the employee has lost all rights to all personal information," Craig Cornish, an employment lawyer from Colorado Springs who specializes in electronic privacy issues was quoted. "I don't think that's the right answer, but it's the prevailing answer today."

Click here to read the complete story in the New York Times. (Registration required.)

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