ECHR: Employers can read employee's private messages

Alan Price – CEO at BrightHR

January 18 2016

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has decided that an employer who accesses employees’ private messages sent using work IT equipment does not breach the employee’s human rights. An employee in Romania set up a Yahoo Messenger account, upon his employer’s request, so that he could deal with client enquiries. The employer operated an IT policy which told employees that communications undertaken with work IT equipment would be monitored, and it also prohibited employees using work equipment for personal purposes. The employee was dismissed when the employer found that he had sent messages to his brother and fiancée via the account, in breach of the IT policy. The employee complained that his human rights had been breached because his employer had accessed his private messages. The ECHR decided that the employee’s human rights had not been breached because he had been warned that all communications would be monitored, and he also knew that personal use of work’s IT equipment was banned. The case underlines the importance of having a robust IT policy setting out the employer’s stance on use and misuse of their IT equipment.

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