On September 5, the European Court of Human Rights issued a ruling in the case of Bărbulescu v. Romania that affirms employees’ right to privacy in the use of communications tools in the workplace. Although the ruling is strict, it aligns with the positions taken by the national courts of certain European Union Member States (e.g., Germany) and guidance issued by data protection authorities. And the criteria that the ECHR adopts for assessing the lawfulness of monitoring generally aligns with the requirements under the General Data Protection Regulation, which takes full effect on May 25, 2018. In our post, we summarize the ruling and identify key takeaways for companies that monitor workforce use of information systems and tools in the EU.
To what extent are the personal communications sent by an employee from their employer’s computer private? In Europe it has been accepted for some years that employees do not lose their right to privacy in the workplace. However a recent decision from the European Court of Human Rights confirms the rights of the employer to restrict employees from any personal use of the employer’s computer equipment and, consequently, rely on a contravention of the restriction (which is revealed through monitoring) as grounds for dismissal.