Can employers spy on their employees? Can they read your Facebook posts, Whats App, Line, WeChat, emails, etc? Do workers lose all their privacy when they get employed?
And a judgment dated 12/1/2016, the European Court of Human Rights deals with this .. (see full Judgment below).
The majority accept that there has been an interference with the applicant’s right to respect for private life and correspondence within the meaning of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“the Convention”), but conclude that there has been no violation of this Article, since the employer’s monitoring was limited in scope and proportionate.
However, the headlines of some of the news reports gives a very wrong picture....The judgment affirms worker's right to privacy - read the Judgment below.
BBC News-Jan 13, 2559 BEEmployers can read workers' private messages sent via chat software and webmail accounts during working hours, judges have ruled.
Employers can read office hours messages sent by workers - court
Irish Times-Jan 13, 2559 BE
Employers can read workers' private messages, says European Court
CIPD (blog)-8 hours ago
Your boss can snoop on your messages
NEWS.com.au-Jan 13, 2559 BEMirror.co.uk-12 hours agoWorkers were warned yesterday by the European Court of Human Rights that their employers can now legally snoop on private Facebook, ...
Work emails not always safe from prying eyes of employers
Stuff.co.nz-16 hours ago
WARNING: Your boss can now read EVERY Facebook and ...
Express.co.uk-9 hours ago
When reading a judgment, one must be very careful - A judgment lays out facts of the case, findings of previous courts, submission of the parties and the conclusions of the court... All that matters is the the assessment of the court, and the conclusions they ultimately reach. One cannot just arbitrarily pick and choose 'quotes' from here and there and say this is it...
The judgment, in fact, does recognize the worker's right for private life and correspondence - and this covers the various online activities - emails, Yahoo Messenger, etc ...
As such, an employer cannot simply violate these rights, and must respect this right of the worker...and public authorities must ensure this
The court can be seen to be struggling - trying hard to justify the employer's action - and, at the end of the day coming to the conclusion that it was 'limited in scope and proportionate' - which may be OK with regard the Yahoo Messenger Account the company directed to be set up for a particular work purpose, but what about the other personal Yahoo Messenger Account? The Court avoids comment here - but read also the dissenting judgment.
Note, that the court, in determining whether the rights of the worker has been violated - is not looking so much at the employer, but rather the 'public authority' concerned...the domestic authorities??
Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
Interference of this right is only allowed in the situations mentioned in 8(2) - so, the only applicable situation may be 'for the protection of the rights ...of others (the employer?).
In any event, at the end of the day, '...the Court concludes in the present case that there is nothing to indicate that the domestic authorities failed to strike a fair balance, within their margin of appreciation, between the applicant’s right to respect for his private life under Article 8 and his employer’s interests....'
Interestingly, the court suggests that the worker has not exhausted available avenues - for the violation of his right of privacy. The worker, I believe, could also sue the employer who violated his rights.. maybe even still, if limitation has not set in..
*** Note the above comments are not comprehensive, but merely some points after quick perusal of the Judgment. They are my opinion, and if I am wrong - please do send me a comment or contact me.
In this case, few points to be noted..
1- "..At his employer’s request, he created a Yahoo Messenger account for the purpose of responding to clients’ enquiries...."
2 - Later, when the company checked this Yahoo Messenger Account, which obviously was meant for work, they found that it had been used also for personal purpose to communicate with fiancee and brother, etc.. So, when the company looked at this Yahoo Messenger Account, it was doing so not to invade the privacy of the worker but rather to look at the work being done..."...It follows that the employer acted within its disciplinary powers since, as the domestic courts found, it had accessed the Yahoo Messenger account on the assumption that the information in question had been related to professional activities and that such access had therefore been legitimate...."
4. '...the employer terminated the applicant’s employment contract for breach of the company’s internal regulations which stated, inter alia:5. When the employee denied, he was confronted with the evidence...“It is strictly forbidden to disturb order and discipline within the company’s premises and especially ... to use computers, photocopiers, telephones, telex and fax machines for personal purposes.”