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Barbulescu v Romania Application No. 61496/08; (2016) EMPLR 013
12 January 2016
European Court of Human Rights
Monitoring an employee’s private communications while at work to check he was complying with the employer’s policy on internet use does not breach employees’ right to privacy.
B’s employers discovered B was using his employer’s computer to send personal messages to his family. B denied this so his employers produced a lengthy transcript of all his communications. B argued this breached his right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court held there was no breach. Article 8 protects individuals from arbitrary interference by public authorities. It does not prohibit interference, but merely balances competing interests. Here, the employer was entitled to access and transcribe B’s communications because B had told them that they contained only professional messages. The Romanian courts had then used the transcripts to establish personal use of the computer during working hours. Beyond that, the courts had taken no account of the content of the communications. The monitoring by his employer and by the courts struck a fair balance between B’s right to privacy and his employer’s interests.