A recent European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) case (Barbulescu -v- Romania) has attracted much publicity in the UK press as giving employers the green light to read employees’ private emails. Is that correct and does this case really change things?
Mr Barbulescu was employed as an engineer in charge of sales. His employer had a strict policy of not permitting private use by employees of its computer and telecommunications systems. Mr Barbulescu was asked by his employer to set up a Yahoo Messenger account so that Mr Barbulescu could communicate with customers.
Sometime later, the employer notified Mr Barbulescu that it has been monitoring his account and they believed that he had been using it for private communications. Mr Barbulescu denied this at which point his employer presented him with a 45 page transcript of all his Yahoo Messenger communications, including private communications with his fiancée and brother. Mr Barbulescu was dismissed for breaching the employer’s policy on personal use of computer systems.
Mr Barbulescu subsequently brought employment claims in the Romanian courts alleging that his dismissal was void since the employer had breached his right to privacy by accessing his private communications. Mr Barbulescu was unsuccessful before the Romanian courts but his case was brought before the ECHR. Mr Barbulescu’s argument was that Romania had failed to protect properly his Article 8 right to respect for his private and family life, his home and correspondence.
Continue Reading Do employers have the right to read employees’ private emails?