Starmer dumps doormat?

Peter Fairbrother zenadsl6186 at
Thu Jan 20 16:01:07 GMT 2011

Roland Perry wrote:
> In article <61E52F3A5532BE43B0211254F13883AE033A58 at EXC001>, Andrew 
> Cormack <Andrew.Cormack at> writes
>>> bounces at] On Behalf Of Roland Perry

>>> Several years ago I also wrote a mini-paper about the situation in
>>> places like an office, where a "boss" (sorry for the stereotyping)
>>> diverts his phone and voicemail to a secretary, and therefore the first
>>> person to get (and listen to) them is not the intended recipient. Make
>>> that in spades when it's the secretary who sets up the diversion on her
>>> own initiative. [nb in these scenarios, the recipient can be argued to
>>> have given permission, but the sender hasn't; and many corporates use
>>> what are in effect public networks as a virtual PABX, so it's not
>>> necessarily being done on a private network either.
>> Roland
>> Did you consider the possibility that in that scenario the secretary 
>> may actually be acting as a legal agent for the boss? It was discussed 
>> on another list last year where we concluded that if the secretary 
>> wasn't the "intended recipient" then there was no way out of the 
>> conclusion that they were acting unlawfully, because of the 
>> requirement for both parties to have consented.
>> None of us knew the law of agency in detail (and I haven't had time 
>> since to look it up).
> Me neither, and this is the first time I've heard of the concept being 
> applied to RIPA. Without (no, really) wishing to re-open an old debate, 
> perhaps one could argue that a virus checker (supplied in the network) 
> that I have subscribed to, is also my agent? [And, cough, a behavioural 
> advertising platform (that I've agreed to on behalf of my family) too].
>> But it seemed that if that resulted in the secretary acting *as* the 
>> boss for a particular subset of his work then the secretary/boss *is* 
>> the intended recipient and the interception problem goes away. That 
>> seemed a reasonable fit for the paper-based world where, if I get a 
>> letter signed "pp CEO" then I treat it as coming from the CEO, even 
>> though it's very obvious that it hasn't.

I don't think agency is relevant here. It's whether the secretary is 
an/the intended recipient, as Andrew himself says.

It's in the *intention* of the sender, sort-of. It's who the sender 
*intends* the message for - and as in the case of eg an email all he has 
is an email address, the expression and interpretation of that intention 
is necessarily a bit fuzzy.

If you send Steve Jobs an email at apple, you cannot expect he will be 
the only person to read it, or even that he will read it at all - but 
you do expect that someone will read it.

The intended recipient may therefore be presumed to be whoever an 
average person would expect it to be, given that email address. It may 
be a single person, or it may include secretaries, lawyers, mail clerks, 
the roadies and groupies, etc.

> But what about inbound items (email or postal) marked "Private and 
> Confidential"?

I think there is some precedent from letters here, but I don't know what 
it is.

-- Peter Fairbrother

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