European Court of Human Rights has made a controversial ruling recently. It is sure to raise a few eyebrows, and unnerve some online privacy advocates.
The case was fought between a Romanian software engineer and his employer. The engineer had been sacked from his job after his boss found objectionable stuff in his personal and private conversations during work hours.
Bogdan Mihai Bărbulescu had been fired for using Yahoo messenger during work hours. When confronted, he told his employer that he was using messenger for business purposes. Bogdan’s employer produced a transcript of his private conversation with his fiancé and brother.
Bogdan was outraged that his boss was monitoring his private conversation without notifying or warning him. He took his employers, a Romanian tech company to the court. First the local courts turned him down and went to European Court of Human Rights.
The Court of Human Rights sided with the employer on Tuesday saying that the boss was justified in reading private chats without the employee knowing.
This news may have quietly passed around amidst of what is going on in the world, but it sets a dangerous precedent for work privacy and employer rights.
That is why I always use a safety protocol like vpntrends, whenever I am at workplace.
Anyways, coming back to the case.
There are two key points in the case. Firstly the court observed that the Yahoo account was created by Bogdan purely for business purposes at the request of the employer. This gave the employer a reasonable right to look into all the communications made by that email.
The court says, “It follows that 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,”
Secondly, it has been established that Bogdan was warned that any private communication at workplace is forbidden and the employer has the right to persecute.
“In the absence of a warning that one’s calls would be liable to monitoring, the applicant had a reasonable expectation as to the privacy of calls made from a work telephone (…) and the same expectation should apply in relation to an applicant’s e-mail and Internet usage,” the court claims.
This case highlights the ongoing debate about online privacy regarding workplace. There are some grey areas for sure. It goes on to show that we are dangerously vulnerable as we are being heavily monitored without our knowledge.
I argue that even at workplace, an employee has a right to privacy as long as he is doing his work.
About the author:
Nuur Hasan is a software developer and a political activist, he intends to dedicate his life to the becoming the voice of the voiceless.