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In EU, Internet Use From Work May Be Protected 146

Posted by Zonk
from the just-because-they-can-see-you dept.
athloi wrote with a link to an Ars Technica article on a case involving the right to privacy on the internet. "A Welsh university employee has successfully sued the UK government in the EU court of human rights over monitoring of her personal internet use from work. According to the complaint, the woman's e-mail, phone, Internet, and fax usage were all monitored by the Deputy Principal (DP) of the college, who appears to have taken a sharp dislike to her. The woman claimed that her human rights were being abused, and pointed specifically to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which governs private and family life." The courts agreed; despite a lack of a notion of 'privacy' in English law, the EU convention forced their hand. The ruling doesn't try to dissuade employers from monitoring employees, but does encourage them to inform employees about surveillance.
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In EU, Internet Use From Work May Be Protected

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  • What I don't understand is why this university doesn't have a policy to cover this sort of monitoring. Most places that I have worked have had a policy that specifically states that the employee's use of corporate communication assets can and will be monitored, and the employee has to sign stating he read this policy. Basically, it's the company's way of covering their arses. Granted, the actions supposedly took place in 1999 and I am too young to comment on the state of corporate communication policies in 1999, but I would think it would have been naieve for any business entity not to have covered themselves legally with some sort of "you might be watched" policy.

    That said, if the university didn't have such a policy, then I don't see a problem with the woman suing. Especially in light of the fact that the person monitoring her actions went so far as to call back numbers she had previously called to see who she was calling.

    Anyway, lawsuits like these are why companies today have aceptable use policies.
  • by Husgaard (858362) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @03:05PM (#18680053)
    Just to set things straight: The European Convention on Human Rights [wikipedia.org] is not an EU [wikipedia.org] convention as the summary says. The European Convention on Human Rights is a lot older than the EU, and a lot of non-EU countries are bound by it.

    And in case you wonder why we have a special european human rights convention when we already have the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights [wikipedia.org]: This is similar, but goes a bit further in the areas where it was impossible to gain international concensus in the UN in 1948. For example, see article 8 in the european human rights

    Article 8 - Right to respect for private and family life1
    1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
    2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
    and compare this to the corresponding article in the UN human rights:

    Article 12. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
  • Rubbish Management (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ash Vince (602485) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @03:52PM (#18680783) Journal
    I have read quite far down the discussion and very few people seem to consider the fact that the manager might be incompetant and stupid.

    Normally in business incompetent people reach a point where they fuck up and get fired. Or they fuck up and get demoted, however this was a council.

    That means that the manager was probably fairly useless anyway (or she would have got a proper job, not working for a council). On top of this the manager did not run what she was doing past the legal team or the organisations HR officer. If she had we would not be discussing this as it never would have ended in a stupid legal fight which has probably cost the british tax payer (me) more than the pair of them's wages for ten years combined.

    The reality is that most councils seem to have a high turnover of high quality staff as the good people leave when they have done enough time for it to look good on their CV. The crap people can't get sacked as nobody ever gets sacked so they just end up in positions of management by default as nobody else wants to stay that long. The manager in question was probably victimising this member of her staff for two reasons:

    1) She was too stupid to find something she could sack the employee for.

    2) The employee was actually good at her job and was making the manager look bad in comparison.
  • While I understand that you can't sign away your human rights, I took the article to mean, that the complaint was that she was unaware that she was being monitored. I think the court may have ruled differently had she been appraised of the fact that her communications were being monitored. It would be nice to think that one could do whatever they wish from their computer at work without fear of reprisal, but I have a hard time seeing that ever happening. (Nor should it, the computer is owned by the company and, as such, should not be abused like any other company resource.)
  • Re:Human Rights?!?@ (Score:2, Informative)

    by 91degrees (207121) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @06:10PM (#18682793) Journal
    Unless we stop being human once we get to the workplace, it is. At least within reason. The exact level of privacy we can expect is a matter of opinion.

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