European court: employers cannot reduce private life to zero

Although rare, victories in online privacy battles do occur.

Today, the European court of human rights judgment has reinforced the rights of employees to have a significant degree of privacy when sending and receiving workplace emails.

The surprise decision by the Strasbourg appeal court, overturning an earlier ruling, will force employers to give more explicit warnings to staff if they want to monitor internet use.

The case, which relates to a Romanian engineer who was fired in 2007 for exchanging messages on an office account about his sexual health with his fiancee, will set a legal precedent in Europe.

By an 11 to six majority, judges in the grand chamber sided with Bogdan Bărbulescu , who claimed his right to a private life was not properly upheld by Romania’s courts. He claimed it was breached when his employer checked up on chat logs from his professional Yahoo Messenger account that included personal and private communications.

Victory in European #OnlinePrivacy: employers to give explicit warnings if they want to monitor internet use Click to Tweet


This could set an important precedent

The ECHR judges agreed that the Romanian courts had not struck a “fair balance” between Bărbulescu’s right to a private life and his employer’s right to ensure he was following work rules. His right to privacy, the judges declared, had been violated.

An employer “cannot reduce private social life in the workplace to zero. Respect for private life and for the privacy of correspondence continues to exist, even if these may be restricted in so far as necessary,” the ECHR grand chamber judgment said.

The case is likely to be examined carefully by lawyers as the ease of modern communications blurs boundaries between work and leisure time. It may help demarcate new contractual boundaries in employer-employee relations.


However, until these boundaries become clearer…

… we strongly recommend protecting your online privacy by encrypting your online activity with the help of a dedicated professional software, such as CyberGhost VPN. It is free to install and has a dedicated app for a multitude of platforms.

It’s best to prevent privacy issues than having to go through costly, time-consuming lawsuits.

About the author

Corina Dumitrescu
Corina Dumitrescu

A professional wordsmith, Corina has improved her writing skills through extensive experiences in journalism, advertising and marketing. Curious by nature, she enjoys learning foreign languages and discovering everything, as well as everyone around her.

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