On January 12, 2016, the European Court of Human Rights (“the Court”) ruled in Bărbulescu v. Romania that companies can monitor their employees’ online communications in certain circumstances.
The case concerned the dismissal of a Romanian engineer, Bărbulescu, by his employer, for the use of the company’s Internet and in particular, Yahoo Messenger, for personal purposes during work hours. The employer alleged that Bărbulescu was violating internal regulations that prohibit the use of the company’s equipment for personal purposes.
The employee argued that his employer violated his right to respect for private life, home and correspondence, as provided for in Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights (the “ECHR”) and therefore, his dismissal was unlawful.
The Court stated that “it is not unreasonable for an employer to want to verify that the employees are completing their professional tasks during working hours,” and that Bărbulescu’s employer accessed its employee’s account on the belief that it contained client-related communications. In addition, the Court found that the employer’s monitoring was proportionate and within the scope of the company’s internal regulations, as the employer accessed only Bărbulescu’s Yahoo Messenger account and no other documents on the employee’s computer. Accordingly, the Court held that the employer’s monitoring did not violate Article 8 of the ECHR.
Read the Court’s press release.
Read the full text of the Court’s judgment.