Will ECHR Judgement Open the Floodgates to Reading Employees Private Messages? -

Will ECHR Judgement Open the Floodgates to Reading Employees Private Messages?

A recent ruling from the Judges at the European Court of Human Rights states employers are allowed to read their employees private messages sent via chat software or a webmail account during working hours.

This was brought to the attention of the courts after the case of Brogdan Barbulescu, who said a company read his Yahoo messenger chats that were sent during working hours. The Judge declared that his employer had the right to read his chats as he was breaching company policy.

The employee had hoped that the court would rule in his favour under the reasoning that the company had breached his right to confidential correspondence as the company had accessed some of his private chats he had set up on both work and personal accounts and subsequently sacked him in 2007.woman-801872_640

However the judges stated that as the firm believed they were accessing a work account, they had not made an error. They concluded “it’s not unreasonable that an employer would want to verify that employees were completing their professional tasks during working hours”.

The recent decision by the judges affects all countries that have backed the European Convention on Human Rights and includes Britain. The judges said that going forward, all employees should be made aware of any company policies or rules that would allow their employers to check on their online activities.

ECHR warned bosses that this doesn’t mean it would be acceptable to carry out unregulated snooping into employees’ private messages. It stated that a set of policies must be drawn up to establish what information employers can collect and how it can be collected.

Proportionate checks are allowed on employees’ communications under UK law. Therefore the judgement on the Brogdan Barbulescu case was in line with both UK law and previous cases related to this. 

This case has however also caused some controversy with people commenting that the blanket ban the company had on personal internet use was unreasonable. The case does however highlight that it is of the upmost importance that employees are aware of such company policies and any monitoring procedures in place.  

What do you think about these recent rulings? Do you agree that employers have a right to check employee’s private messages sent during working hours?

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