court

EU judges have ruled that bosses can snoop on your private emails, and social media messages.

The ruling comes after Bogdan Mihai Bărbulescu was sacked after sending personal messages to his fiancee during work hours using Yahoo Messenger on a company-owned device.

His bosses had discovered this after accessing his private emails and then later discovering they were sent via his work devices.

The employee had asked the court to rule the employer had breached his right to confidential correspondence when it accessed his messages in 2007.

He was accused by his bosses of using the service for personal purposes, and was presented with transcripts of messages he had exchanged with his brother and his fiancee “relating to personal matters such as his health and sex life”, the European Court said.

Judges had ruled the company had a right to check whether he was working when he was supposed to be.

The company’s policy had also prohibited the use of the messaging app for personal conversations.

This ruling will apply to all EU countries that have ratified the European Convention on Human Rights, which includes Britain.

Under the judgement, bosses can monitor what messages you send during work hours.

Software is easily available for employers to be able to monitor what is happening on a worker’s screen.

On the face of it, this seems rather reasonable. Afterall, if an employee is being paid to work, it is hardly unreasonable to check that they are indeed doing so.

Where the law is unclear is whether it includes any emails that were sent during lunch breaks.

While judges did call for safeguards against unregulated snooping, it is also unclear as to where the law stands when it comes to monitoring personal devices used at work. Furthermore, no safeguards were introduced as part of any ruling.

Indeed, many employees have in the past been fired after unwisely posting a drunken picture over Facebook during personal hours, using their own devices.

The question that many will be having after this new ruling, is where do such powers end?

Is it also possible for an employer to access email accounts that have been password protected? If so, how and why?

Such questions as yet remain unanswered.

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