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Employee emails: No snooper’s charter

In B?rbulescu v Romania (Application No 61496/08), the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) had to determine whether an employer was entitled to monitor an employee’s private electronic communications.

19 January 2016

The applicant (B) was employed from 1 August 2004 to 6 August 2007 as an engineer in charge of sales. He created a Yahoo Messenger account for responding to clients’ enquiries. He was told by his employer that these communications had been monitored for a period of around seven days and that the records showed that he had been using the messenger service for private purposes, in breach of the company’s policies. 

B argued that, in accessing his private messages, his employer was in breach of the Romanian criminal code and his right to privacy under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and therefore it could not rely on the evidence in relation to disciplinary proceedings during which he was dismissed. The ECtHR disagreed. 

The decision has led to some hysterical headlines claiming that it is a snooper’s charter, but that is not entirely correct. In this instance, the court recognised that article 8 rights did apply. ...

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