Daily Management Review

Employers in EU Can Now Snoop On Your Private Messages At Work


Employers in EU Can Now Snoop On Your Private Messages At Work
EU judges have recently ruled that during working hours, all mails – including even private messages sent via that are sent by employees can be seen by employers in the European Union.  
A Romanian employer firm that read a worker’s Yahoo Messenger chats sent while he was at work was within its rights said the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
The employee, an engineer, “had hoped the court would rule that his employer had breached his right to confidential correspondence when it accessed his messages and subsequently sacked him in 2007,” the BBC reported.
 “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. The court sees no reason to question these findings,” The ECHR judges said.
The employee in this case did access employer owned equipment to transmit the private messages during work hours even as there is a very fine line. Howverethere was no clarity or elaboration from the court about what could happen if an employee his own PC or mobile.
As it’s reasonable to assume an employee is performing their duties in office hours and not conducting personal affairs, therefore employers are within rights to question usage regardless, the ruling said supporting employers.
Employee monitoring, which is however nothing new however, is the act of monitoring employee activity and organisations engage in such activities to track performance, avoid legal liability, protect IP, and address other security concerns. Monitoring of this type does have an explicit impact on employee privacy.
While all aspects have to be explained up front and made visible to employees and not after the fact, the following list details the uses of employee information that are generally considered legal. The aim of employee monitoring according to experts include attempts by employers to protect security of proprietary information and data, prevent or investigate possible criminal activities by employees, prevent personal use of employer facilities, check for violations of company policy against sending offensive or pornographic email, investigate complaints of harassment and check for illegal software.
However other countries are not bound by the ruling and can interpret the decision in their own way even as the above ruling has affected the Romanian worker directly.
This ruling is also in line with the attempts of British Prime Minister David Cameron who is still pressing ahead with new powers that plan to stop people from sending any form of encrypted messages. He is also vying for complete access to encrypted messages by the Government.
IT companies would require ISPs and mobile providers to maintain records of each user’s internet browsing activity (including social media), email correspondence, voice calls, and mobile phone messaging services and store the records for 12 months under the “Draft Communications Data Bill” (nicknamed Snooper’s Charter).
WhatsApp, Snapchat, Apple's own iMessage, Facebook Messenger and other popular instant messaging tools are under direct threat of the legislation. At present these services encrypt messages but under the new legislation the UK Government wants the right to access all data being transmitted.

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