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ECHR scales back businesses' powers to snoop on staff's private messages
13.9.17
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"The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has rules a company shouldn't have sacked one of its employees because he sent private emails from his work account during working hours.

The ECHR used the case of Romanian Bogdan Mihai Barbulescu vs Romania to stipulate what companies can and can't do when monitoring employee emails.

If a company wants to monitor employee email usage, it must notify the employee beforehand and tell them to what extent their communications will be monitored, whether the employer has legitimate reasons to monitor the content, whether it's possible to monitor the communications via other, less intrusive methods and the consequences if an employee is found to be misusing company email.

The court ruled the way the employer in this case monitored emails was against Barbulescu's human rights, explaining the employer "failed to strike a fair balance between the interests at stake: namely Mr Barbulescu’s right to respect for his private life and correspondence, on the one hand, and his employer’s right to take measures in order to ensure the smooth running of the company, on the other.

The court found no evidence that Barbulescu received a warning that his communications were being monitored prior to losing his job and even if he was told, he was unaware of the extent of the snooping. It concluded that the company had not protected his right to respect for his private life and correspondence under Article 8 of the Convention."

See: ECHR scales back businesses' powers to snoop on staff's private messages (IT Pro, link)

See the ECHR press release: Monitoring of an employee’s electronic communications amounted to a breach of his right to private life and correspondence (pdf):

"In today’s Grand Chamber judgment in the case, the European Court of Human Rights held, by eleven votes to six, that there had been:

a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life, the home and correspondence) of the European Convention on Human Rights."

Plus the judgment: Bãrbulescu v. Romania (application no. 61496/08, pdf) and ECHR: Q&A on the judgment (pdf)

See also: ECHR court reverses ruling on sacking over private messages (BBC News, link):

"A Romanian man should not have been fired for sending private messages at work, Europe's top human rights court has ruled.

Bogdan Mihai Barbulescu was sacked for sending the messages via the Yahoo messaging system in 2007.

His employer had used surveillance software to monitor his computer activity."

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