Privacy is something rather sought after nowadays, as advances in technology and a constant connectivity to online resources mean that more and more of our lives are become public and unprotected. Increased news articles about phone hacking of high profile celebrities in order to satisfy the intrigue of the tabloid press make us believe that monitoring doesn’t actually apply to us ‘normal’ folk, however that is actually not the case.
Since 2011, Barbulescu, a Romanian sales manager, has been attempting to bring a successful case against his employers who monitored all correspondence from his Yahoo Messenger Account. His case (Barbulescu v Romania) was dismissed time and time again due to the fact his employer had warned him about not using his work account for private matters. This being said, one cannot help but question why tracking employees accounts is viewed as necessary?
Many argue that monitoring in this way ensures that all parties are complying with company policies and doing the appropriate work assigned to them, however surely the same outcome could be achieved by blocking access to distracting materials on their systems? By stating that it is right to browse through someone else’s property, employers are potentially putting their staff in an unfair position as private information (that has no direct bearing on the work they do) could be used to dismiss them from their jobs. One could say that if the shoe was on the other foot, the situation would be highly different and opposed to profusely.
Although the ECHR eventually ruled in favour of Berbulscu’s claim that they had failed to protect his right to a private life and correspondence, the process was incredibly long and difficult. In my opinion this ruling came far too late as it was evident from the outset that his right to privacy had been violated. Although the situation has now been lawfully rectified, the distress of losing one’s job and entering into a 10 year court case battle can be used as an example of the difficulties employees face when unfairly dismissed due to the monitoring of private information.
*Written by Hedges Law intern Alexandra Ellis*