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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.


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