Strasbourg, France : Europe’s top rights court on Tuesday restricted the ability of employers to snoop on the private messages of their employees, in a landmark ruling with wide ramifications for privacy in the workplace.
The highest body of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in favour of a 38-year-old Romanian who claimed his rights had been violated when he was sacked for sending private chat messages in the office.
Bogdan Mihai Barbulescu has fought a 10-year legal battle through Romanian and European courts, claiming his privacy had been infringed when his employer accessed intimate exchanges with his fiancee and brother.
Last year, the ECHR had ruled that snooping was allowed because employers were justified in wanting to verify “that employees were completing their tasks during working hours.” But in a review, the 17 most senior judges found on Tuesday that Romanian courts “had not adequately protected Mr Barbulescu’s right to respect for his private life and correspondence.”
The judges found that “an employer’s instructions could not reduce private social life in the workplace to zero”, meaning some use of the internet at work for personal reasons was justified. The ruling will become law in 47 countries that have ratified the European Convention on Human Rights.