Legal Issues

by Carlo Longino

EU Court Calls Employee Computer Monitoring A Human Rights Violation, In Some Cases

from the the-man-is-getting-me-down dept

The European Court for Human Rights has ruled in favor of a woman who sued the British government after her boss in her public-sector job monitored her personal phone calls and internet use while she was at work. While the decision does set some precedent that monitoring employees' personal communications, even if done on work time over work equipment, contravenes the EU's human-rights laws, it also makes it clear that it's only in certain circumstances. Basically, to avoid legal problems, an employer has to have a policy covering acceptable use of its systems and equipment, and that policy has to say that employees' communications could be monitored if it wants to spy on employees' communications. While it seems a little strong to call this a human-rights violation, and it would seem wise to err on the side of caution and assume your employer can or will monitor what goes across their networks, the court's decision doesn't seem unreasonable. If employers want to waste their time trying to find all that lost productivity by spying on their employees, some disclosure would probably be appreciated. If only all potential human-rights violators would be so courteous.

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  • identicon
    Trevor Troublesome, 13 Apr 2007 @ 2:20am

    EU Fundamental rights *NOT* EU

    It's not such a stretch, there is the European Convention of Human rights (this is the agreement which the "European Court for Human Rights" enforces). Which is a convention *outside* the EU agreed in the 1950s

    "Article 8 – Right to respect for private and family life
    1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence."

    There is also a phishing document written by the European Union in 2000. "Charter of Fundamental Rights" designed to confuse you into thinking the EU Fundamental rights come from the European Union, and not a separate agreement.

    Th e EU one is full of lobbyist fodder.

    e.g. the privacy is watered from 'privacy' to 'protection of data', i.e. you can spread the data but as long as you protect it. (Article 8)

    and this one (from the "Charter"):

    "Article 17 The right to property
    2. Intellectual property shall be protected."

    The non lobbyists "Convention" document doesn't mention this 'intellectual property'.

    You can see how the lobbyists had a field day with the "Charter of Fundamental Rights". A document for protecting HUMAN rights has a term tacked on it, primarily designed to protect CORPORATE COMMERCIAL rights.

    Don't confuse the two.
    Convention = Non EU Commission document that is good and clean and honest.
    Charter = EU Commissions lobbyists POS.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Security, 13 Apr 2007 @ 5:26am

    Even SMBs are Exploring this Tech

    In the last few years, we have been getting more inquiries about this technology - first from large firms, now even medium and occasional small businesses are exploring this technology.

    Employees are spending more time on the job - either at a physical location - or working longer hours via a VPN.

    So it does become more likely that those staying longer at their offices may need to resolve personal matters that years ago would be have reserved for after 5pm.

    Also, since so much can be done online - people are carving time our of their work day to take care personal billing issues.

    However, The Internet and growth of portable storage devices present another dimension for those intent on malicious behavior.

    There must be open communication about concerns as well as a fair balance that companies and employees must resolve depending on their critical positions within the company

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Sanguine Dream, 13 Apr 2007 @ 8:04am

      Re: Even SMBs are Exploring this Tech

      That's the thing. Businesses expect a larger portion of an employee's life (which leaves less time for the to deal with other things like family, bills, and so on...) but when the employee gives that larger portion with the expectation of, "I can do more work but I'll just have to handle some of my personal business at work." they get caught up in this nonsense.

      A word of advice to employers: Either give your people the freedom to handle their personal business on the job or cut on the time you expect from them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    James, 13 Apr 2007 @ 7:30am


    Disclosed, which I think it should be, or not, no one using their employees communication systems should assume any level of privacy on those systems, period. Its not a human rights violation, its common sense.

    Its rediculous, besides you are there to work not share your intermost thoughts via email to your partner.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Matt, 13 Apr 2007 @ 5:17pm

    I love that someone using their employer's resources thinks they have a "right" to privacy on those resources. The individual that owns those resources does however have a right to make sure they are being used for business purposes or not.

    A decent analogy is the company car. It would be odd to claim that you can drive the company's car anywhere you like without having to tell anyone where you are going. Even further along those lines it would be absurd to expect to run personal errands on company time with a company car.

    Businesses generally don't care about running their employee's life. They care about profits. Although the internet does speed up many daily tasks for the office worker it also provides an outlet for time-wasting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Apr 2007 @ 6:59pm


      I love that someone using their employer's resources thinks they have a "right" to privacy on those resources.
      Yeah, like using the company loo. They aught to expect there to be hidden toilet cams!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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