The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that companies can monitor the digital communications of their workers.

Therefore, employees should think twice before sending private messages or using message apps at work for personal purposes. Read the complete statement.

In a Twitter interview, professor of E-Governance at Strathclyde University, Lilian Edwards, said the decision would have few consequences because it follows existing guidelines.

Lilian Edwards warned however that Internet surveillance runs the risk of being abused by employers.

“Do you want your employer asking for your Facebook password? Your Gmail password? This is already happening routinely in the US.”

How can companies manage the situation? According to Lilian Edwards, the best option is to make things clear.

“The best advice is to have a policy saying what you (company) collect and why.”

The Open Rights Group agrees with professor Lilian Edwards about the consequences of the ECHR decision. Executive Director of Open Rights Group Jim Killock said it affected only the case it was about.

“The Judgment relates to the specifics of this particular case. In our view, it does not open the way for any or all employee monitoring.”

The origin: a Yahoo account

The case concerned Romanian engineer Bogdan Mihai Bărbulescu, who was fired for breaking the company’s internal regulations using the internet for personal purposes within working hours.

At his employers’ request, Mr. Bărbulescu opened a Yahoo Messenger account to answer customers’ inquiries. The company controlled the messenger app and found that Mr. Bărbulescu has used it to talk with his brother and his fianceé.
According to the Court, it is reasonable that an employer verifies if an employee is completing his or her professional tasks and, therefore, there has been no violation of  Article 8 of the European Convention, which provides a right to respect for one’s “private and family life, his home, and his correspondence”.

Featured image © Succo.