Are Personal Emails Sent Whilst At Work ‘Private’?
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled recently in the case of Barbulescu v Romania that an employer was within its rights to read private messages sent by an employee during his working hours.
Mr Barbulescu argued that doing so was in breach of one of his basic human rights, his right to privacy as protected by Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights (and in the UK Article 8 of the Human Rights Act).
The Court found however that there had been no violation of Mr Barbulescu’s human rights as the monitoring of his messages by his employer had been ‘limited in scope and proportionate’ to the aim of ensuring that he was complying with his professional duties.
The outcome may however have been different if the employer had not had suitable policies in place restricting personal use of its IT facilities.
From an employer’s perspective it is essential to ensure that you do have suitable policies and procedures in place, and to ensure that you comply with these and do not go beyond the steps that they allow you to take.
Employees should be aware of the policies and procedures implemented and operated by their employer, and should act at all times in accordance with those policies. If your Employer does operate a policy which forbids the use of their IT systems for personal communications, be wary that this may entitle them to review your use of those systems to ensure that you are complying with their policies.