ECHR rules that employers can look at workers' private messages sent while at work

The Judges at The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) have ruled that employers are now allowed to read private messages sent via Facebook, WhatsApp and iMessenger accounts during working hours.

Applying to every country that has ratified the European Convention on Human Rights, including Great Britain, the news has come as quite a stir to employers and employees across the UK, with a current poll by The Express  showing 85% disagree with the ruling.

The case for social chat monitoring came about in 2007, when Romanian worker Bogdan Barbulescu was sacked due to his employer discovering his messages during work hours.

Mr Barbulescu had requested the court to rule the employer as breaching his confidentiality rights. However, he lost his case in Romania’s domestic courts and appealed to the ECHR.

Unfortunately for Mr Barbulescu judges ruled that he had breached company rules.

Facebook (PD)

But before businesses jump at the prospect of monitoring every communication aspect that goes on within the boundaries of the office, unregulated snooping on employees has been condemned by the ECHR, and they’ve strongly recommended for businesses to implement policies that detail what information they could collect and how.

Luke Hutchings Head of Employment at Taylor Rose TTKW commented that:

Businesses need to make their policy on the issue clear and communicate this to staff, ideally through their contract of employment. As our personal lives can often blur into the workplace, it’s a reminder for many companies of the importance of setting clear guidelines on the use of personal devices in the workplace environment”.

In an age where many corporate companies operate a remote workforce and distribute company phones, the personal use of corporate messaging systems will come under more scrutiny than an employee’s personal device.

Computer use will be the primary device monitored, with software now easily available for employers to see what is happening on a worker’s screen, but personal mobiles will not come under the ruling.

So as long as companies monitoring is related to the business, and the equipment being is is provided for work, and the employers have notified the employee’s that their communications could be monitored, employers are legally within their rights to keep an eye on you.

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