The leading judgment of the Supreme Court concerning an employer's right to review email correspondence of an employee is the Isakov Case. This case decided that, as a general rule, review of private correspondence is prohibited. It was held in that case that the review and tracking of private correspondence of the employee constitutes an infringement of privacy, insofar as it concerns the private-external email address of the employee. According to this precedent, when the email address which the employer makes available to the employee for work purposes is concerned, the employer is entitled to review the personal correspondence only if there are exceptional circumstances giving rise to a real suspicion of illegal activities or activities which could harm the business on the part of the employee, and then only with the prior consent of the employee. This applies whether the employer gave the employee the right to use the employer email address for personal use or not.
In a new case, which was recently handed down by His Honor Mr. Justice Mazuz sitting in the Supreme Court, the Court honed in on the Isakov precedent and added an important twist. In the case of Ramet Ltd v Rami Shamir Civil Engineering Ltd, the parties entered into a services agreement under which Ramet made available to Rami Shamir office space, a computer and an email address in its name. The email address operated on the computer network belonging to Ramet. There was no employment relationship between the parties. Legal proceedings commenced between the parties and Ramet asked, within those proceedings, to exhibit copies of the Rami Shamir email correspondence which was located on Ramet's network, in order to support Ramet's claim. The question which was at the centre of the judgment of His Honor Mr. Justice Mazuz was whether the Isakov precedent also applies in cases where there is no employment relationship between the parties.
The Supreme Court decided that the fact that there is no employment relationship between the parties does not act so as to negate the application of the Isakov precedent. Accordingly, on the facts, it was decided that Ramet had breached the privacy rights of Rami Shamir and that the fact that the computer and the network belonged to Ramet does not give the latter the right to dig into the private space of Rami Shamir.
Reference: Request for Leave to Appeal 3661/16 Ramet Company Ltd v Rami Shamir Civil Engineering Limited (23.8.2016); A"A 90/08 Isakov v the State of Israel – The Supervisor of the Employment of Women Law (8.2.2011)