Skip to Content

It’s Getting Harder to Spy on Employees (in Europe, at Least)

September 5, 2017

There’s an entire industry dedicated to snooping on workers, but the highest courts in Europe don’t seem to like it all that much. The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has found that Romanian worker Bogdan Bărbulescu’s rights were violated when his Yahoo Messenger conversations were spied on and later used as part of his dismissal. Though he set up the account for work use, he also used it to chat with his brother and partner, and was fired shortly after his boss confronted him with transcripts of the conversations, which included discussions about sexual health.

As the Guardian notes, Bărbulescu has argued that his privacy should have been protected by article 8 of the European convention on human rights, which ensures respect for private and family life and correspondence. Romanian authorities and the European Court of Human Rights had previously sided with his employer, finding it “not unreasonable” for the organization to spy on the worker. But the Grand Chamber—Bărbulescu’s last chance to appeal—clearly disagreed, overturning the older rulings.

The news could shape future policies about workplace monitoring across the whole of Europe, forcing employers to take a more lenient approach to how workers use their phones and computers.

Things aren’t quite so positive in America. In the U.S. it’s perfectly legal to record what happens in the workplace, and as we’ve reported before, there’s an entire industry focused on giving your cubicles eye and ears. So go easy on sending those messages to your loved ones from the office.


Deep Dive


Embracing CX in the metaverse

More than just meeting customers where they are, the metaverse offers opportunities to transform customer experience.

Identity protection is key to metaverse innovation

As immersive experiences in the metaverse become more sophisticated, so does the threat landscape.

The modern enterprise imaging and data value chain

For both patients and providers, intelligent, interoperable, and open workflow solutions will make all the difference.

Scientists have created synthetic mouse embryos with developed brains

The stem-cell-derived embryos could shed new light on the earliest stages of human pregnancy.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.