European Court of Human Rights says companies can snoop on employees' private email, chats

Remember all the e-mails and IMs you’ve sent to your friends while you were supposed to be working? According to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), your employer might have access to those, in certain scenarios.

The news comes via the BBC, which is citing the ECHR’s decision on a case in which a Romanian engineer sued his employer, after the employer accessed the man’s Yahoo account and subsequently fired him from the company.

The engineer’s lawyers tried to argue that this was a breach of the man’s right to confidential correspondence but the argument did not sway the court. Instead, the employer was deemed to be acting legally, because the man in question had used his Yahoo account for both work and personal correspondence during company hours and the company believed it was accessing a work account in good faith.

The court’s decision has the potential to raise serious issues with regards to employee privacy and a company’s responsibility to honor that right. This fact was emphasized when, in the decision itself, the judges mentioned that this wasn’t meant as a carte blanche when it comes to companies spying on their employees.

Rather, say the judges, a company has a responsibility to create a clear set of policies with regards to employee privacy, and that the issue should further be regulated by authorities.

The court’s decision affects all countries that have ratified the European Convention on Human Rights.

Source: BBC | EU flags image courtesy of Shutterstock

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