European employers barred from secretly monitoring office emails

A new regulation in Europe has ordered employers to stop monitoring emails and other means of communications of their staff.

yahoo messenger
A Yahoo messenger logo is displayed on a monitor in this photo illustration shot 16 April 2013 (Mike Blake/File Photo/Reuters)

A new regulation in Europe has ordered employers to stop monitoring emails and other means of communications of their staff. If they do, they will have to inform their employees in advance before doing so.

The landmark judgment rolled out by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, France comes after the lawsuit involving Romanian engineer Bogdan Barbelescu. He was fired from his job at an undisclosed company in 2007 for sending messages which the court ruling described "of an intimate nature".

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Barbelescu had reportedly been said unaware of the company's scope of monitoring his personal emails. According to Reuters, Barbulescu's company showed him a physical copy of his private messages with his brother and fiancée on Yahoo Messenger, which it used as grounds of company policy breach for personal use.

Romanian court backed the company's claim, but with the ECHR's decision has underscored that the local court "failed to protect Barbulescu's right to private life and correspondence". There was no enough evidence that Barbulescu's communications were a threat to the company.

"This set of requirements will restrict to an important extent the employers' possibilities to monitor the workers' electronic communications," Esther Lynch, confederal secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, tells Reuters. "Although it does not generally prohibit such monitoring, it sets high thresholds for its justification. This is a very important step to better protect worker's privacy."

This article was first published on September 7, 2017
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