This widely reported ECHR case decided that an employer was not infringing a workers’ human right to a private life by accessing messages that he had sent using an online messaging system at work.
The employee used the system for work purposes but it contained both work and private messages that he had sent.
The key to the decision was that the company accessed the private information because they reasonably assumed that it was a work related account rather than a personal one (the personal use of the account been banned under his employment contract).
Whilst a precedent has been set which will have some force in the UK, similar cases are likely to rest on the individual facts surrounding the employment, including the type and nature of the account accessed and the internet usage policies of the employer.
Employees in Europe might want to think carefully about using the internet to send private messages during office hours after Europe’s top rights court ruled on Tuesday that companies could monitor workers’ online communications.