Dear bosses, a European court says it’s illegal to track your employee’s mails
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Dear bosses, a European court says it’s illegal to track your employee’s mails

In a landmark ruling, a top European human rights court said companies snooping on employees’ mails violate privacy.

more lifestyle Updated: Sep 05, 2017 18:09 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Right to Privacy,European Court of Human Rights,Employment contracts
Do you suspect your employees are sending personal messages at work? Well, you still can’t spy on them. (Shutterstock)

Do your employer track your electronic communication at work? Do they check if you use your official mail account or messaging channels to send personal messages?

On Tuesday, Europe’s top human rights court ruled that employers snooping on their employee’s electronic communications violates the right to privacy.

The court was hearing a complaint by Bogdan Bărbulescu, a Romanian software engineer at a sales company, who was fired after his company found he was using his Yahoo Messenger account to message his fiancée and brother.

Bărbulescu had argued that though the company’s rules prohibited the use of official communication channels for personal use, his employer had overstepped bounds and infringed on his right to privacy when they spied on his messages.

Bărbulescu’s appeal was dismissed by Romanian courts, but the European Court of Human Rights upheld his right to privacy in the landmark ruling on Tuesday. A statement released by the court said, an employer “cannot reduce private social life in the workplace to zero. Respect for private life and for the privacy of correspondence continues to exist, even if these may be restricted in so far as necessary.”

In January, six out of seven judges at the human rights court in Strasbourg had found that firm was not in the wrong, since they scanned Bărbulescu’s messages under the impression that it was all work-related. It was not “unreasonable that an employer would want to verify that employees were completing their professional tasks during working hours”, the court had said.

But Tuesday’s ruling in the higher chamber overturned that decision and sided with Bărbulescu. The top court found that Bărbulescu had not known that his employers would actually read his chat logs.

The judgment has bearing on European companies where Facebook messenger, WhatsApp and Gchat are used for official communication.

First Published: Sep 05, 2017 18:09 IST