EU ruling says that companies can monitor employees' private online communications

By midian182
Jan 13, 2016
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  1. While a lot of people may occasionally sneak out a personal email or use a web-based messenger to speak to a friend while at work, employees in Europe are about to find that the risks that come with sending private messages during office hours may be too high. After ruling on a case yesterday, one of Europe’s top court has said that companies have the right to monitor workers’ online communications.

    The ruling relates to a case involving the dismissal of a Romanian engineer in 2007. Bogdan Mihai Barbulescu was asked by his employer to set up a Yahoo Messenger account to answer customer queries, but he was fired after the company discovered he was using it to communicate with his fiancee and brother.

    Barbulescu’s company prohibited using the messaging service for personal purposes and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) dismissed the engineer’s argument that the firm had violated his right to confidential correspondence.

    The Strasbourg court said that it was “not unreasonable that an employer would want to verify that employees were completing their professional tasks during working hours.”

    The judges in the case also defended the decision by Romania’s courts to allow transcripts of the engineer’s communications be used against him, saying: “It proved that he had used the company’s computer for his own private purposes during working hours.”

    The Romanian courts did, however, withhold the identities of the people Barbulescu was communicating with, striking a “fair balance” between respect for privacy and the interests of the employer, said the ECHR.

    The ECHR’s judgments are binding on countries that have ratified the European Convention on Human Rights, and will set a precedent for future cases involving employee monitoring.

    Some legal experts worry that the ruling will mean EU workers may see their privacy rights diminish as employers gain the power to look at employees' personal online content - including emails - if accessed while at work. It may also influence companies to make workplace decisions based on private communications.

    The case highlights the fact that employees should always check their company’s policy on personal messages. While some firms allow for a reasonable personal use of company systems, others completely ban the practice. Now, in the EU at least, bosses may start demanding to read everything workers have sent during office hours, be it private or otherwise.

    Image credit: Kinga / Shutterstock

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  2. CrisisDog

    CrisisDog TS Booster Posts: 119   +17

    My company already does this, so I don't see the big deal. If you use the company equipment or network to communicate, you give up the right to privacy on those communications. Everything is monitored and recorded. Bring your own phone and data plan if you expect privacy.
  3. alabama man

    alabama man TS Maniac Posts: 201   +100

    My employer can watch me all they want. Haven't done anything illegal and not planning to anytime soon. Same goes for government, google and microsoft, if they really like to invest in server farms just to look at me gaming be my quest.

    If you use someone else's computer it's just common sense he/she/it can watch and record all he wants. Would be stranger if they weren't allowed to.
  4. AnonymousSurfer

    AnonymousSurfer TS Guru Posts: 451   +37

    Agreed. The title of the Article made it sound like it was monitoring employees during off hours, but in reality a lot of companies already monitor what you do at work. I too have no problem with this practice.
  5. DjKraid

    DjKraid TS Guru Posts: 536   +21

    I think this is ok even tho it would be nice if they would state that they actually monitor you in the initial contract that everyone has to sign. Aside from that, I think that this is rather normal tho...depending on what you work with of course.
  6. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,430   +2,822

    As long as it is from their terminals, it is their right to monitor all your activities.
    Evernessince likes this.
  7. Jack007

    Jack007 TS Enthusiast Posts: 118   +24

    I would like to see a company monitor my network traffic from my laptop thats loaded with red hat linux chatting with a tor enabled messenger thats fully encrypted both ways. Would be fun to see the network admin trying to decrypt a one line of words all day and night and still not get it decrypted
  8. Oliver Authried

    Oliver Authried TS Rookie

    Just a little side note to the otherwise controversial ruling - it's not an EU ruling, dear editors. It's the European Court of Human Rights, where the European Union isn't even a member yet.

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