27 Jan Mointoring of personal messages
Monitoring of personal messages on work-related internet messaging account did not breach right to privacy
The European Court of Human Rights has handed down a decision on the right to privacy under Article 8 of the ECHR, in the context of a private sector employer’s monitoring of an employee’s work-related Yahoo Messenger account. The employee was dismissed for personal internet use at work, contrary to the employer’s internal rules. As part of its investigation the employer accessed intimate messages sent by the employee to his fiancee and his brother. These messages were printed by the employer and used in the disciplinary proceedings as well as in the employee’s subsequent court challenge. The Romanian courts upheld the employee’s dismissal, and the ECtHR held that the monitoring of his internet usage and the use of the Yahoo messages in disciplinary proceedings was a proportionate interference in his Article 8 rights.
The case received a great deal of media coverage, some of it giving the misleading impression that the decision gives employers a green light to snoop on employees’ personal emails. However, the decision does not overrule previous ECtHR case law on the reasonable expectation of privacy and the need for any interference in privacy to be proportionate. Nor does it override existing UK legislation, including the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which place important limitations on employers’ power to monitor their employees’ private communications. (Bărbulescu v Romania – 61496/08  ECHR 61.) – Source PLC Weekly (21st January 2016)