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Germany To Grant Privacy At the Workplace 450

Posted by samzenpus
from the snooping-on-your-lunch-break dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The German government is proposing a bill declaring that employees have an expectation of privacy at the workplace (translated article). Among other provisions, the bill would ban employers from surveilling their employees by cameras or logging and reading their emails. Also, potential employers would not be allowed to view an applicant's profile at Facebook or any other social network that hasn't actually been made for this purpose."
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Germany To Grant Privacy At the Workplace

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  • Response (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23, 2010 @12:09AM (#33337394)

    Good thing for German workers.

  • by SudoGhost (1779150) on Monday August 23, 2010 @12:09AM (#33337398)
    That would be like me saying I can't put a GPS on my car to keep tabs on where it goes when my son drives it. If you're on facebook at work when you should be working, I think the employer has a right to know about it. Also, no cameras? So they can't utilize technology, but they're still allowed to stand behind you and watch you work, right? The only difference between the two is the technology behind the first one.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Nossie (753694)

      I agree with you entirely!

      I know, lets put a tracker on your car and watch when you go over the speed limit by a fraction or decide to be in a hurry during slippery conditions. Don't worry, we wont bother you with actually being there to see it, we'll just take the money out of your bank account automagically and update your driving status accordingly. The old way, the police just have to sit behind you and watch you drive or have a speed camera aimed right at you. right? The only difference between the t

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by SudoGhost (1779150)
        Apparently you've never seen red-light cameras.
      • by SudoGhost (1779150) on Monday August 23, 2010 @12:22AM (#33337468)
        Read the title of the post you replied to. It's THEIR computers. The equipment belongs to them. Me monitoring my computer is completely different than me monitoring your computer. Therefore...I don't see what you're getting at with you're sarcasm.
        • by martin-boundary (547041) on Monday August 23, 2010 @12:40AM (#33337550)
          I don't really see what you're trying to get at? All the employer has to do is block access to FB urls, and then they don't have to monitor the employee's FB activities at all.

          Spying is simply not needed to keep employees focused on the job.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Yes, because we all know that there is no such thing as a proxy

            • by vigmeister (1112659) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:36AM (#33337800)

              Looks like we all know that there's no such thing as a whitelist either...

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by ArsenneLupin (766289)

                Looks like we all know that there's no such thing as a whitelist either...

                Well probably they don't want to 100 of requests per day to whitelist sites that are relevant to work....

                And for some people (such as HR, marketing, customer support...), facebook is relevant to work.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I don't see what you're getting at with you're sarcasm.

          You don't see what I am getting at with I am sarcasm?

        • by Kireas (1784888) * on Monday August 23, 2010 @02:28AM (#33338032) Homepage Journal
          I'm at work right now, using a mobile broadband connection I own, on a computer that I own.
          So no equipment or infrastructure that belongs to the company is in use. You say they should be able to monitor my computer via cameras, or software on the off-chance I need to use the company network for files?

          Interesting. Personally, I'm neither for nor against such measures - I use SSH as a matter of course when I'm not at home, and don't use work computers if I can avoid it (and kill the VNC process if I have to use one). I've got nothing to hide, except possibly my personal e-mails to family, but I'm happier knowing there's no-one watching over my every move.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by shaitand (626655)

            I use an ssh tunnel to a proxy running on my home connection and a portable firewall application to block any company network traffic other than what I have to open to actually perform my work.

            As long as I do my job its none of the company's damn business what else I might be doing.

        • by PseudonymousBraveguy (1857734) on Monday August 23, 2010 @03:07AM (#33338160)
          In Germany, everybody has by law a rigth to privacy. In this case, the right of the employer to install surveillance software on their computers has to be weighted against the right of the employee. It was decided that the right of the employee was more important. (Actually the decision was a little more complex than this because there are still cases where the right of the employer is considered more important than the imployee's right to privacy. E.g. it is still allowed to monitor employees it there is a reasonable suspection of a crime or corruption. And if it is neccessary to monitor the location of employees for security reasons, you are still allowed to do that. But you are not allowed to do it secretly)
        • by ArsenneLupin (766289) on Monday August 23, 2010 @03:46AM (#33338340)

          Read the title of the post you replied to. It's THEIR computers. The equipment belongs to them. Me monitoring my computer is completely different than me monitoring your computer. Therefore...I don't see what you're getting at with you're sarcasm.

          It's the cybercafé's computer. Does that mean they can put a keystroke logger on there?

          It's the bathhouse's hottub. Does that mean that they can put a camera pointing at it?

          It's the clothing store's fitting room. Does that mean they can put a camera in there?

          It's the restaurant's toilet. Does that mean they can put a camera in there?

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Yes to all, provided patrons are informed. People can then vote with their money.

        • by dna_(c)(tm)(r) (618003) on Monday August 23, 2010 @04:21AM (#33338496)

          Read the title of the post you replied to. It's THEIR computers. The equipment belongs to them. Me monitoring my computer is completely different than me monitoring your computer. Therefore...I don't see what you're getting at with you're sarcasm.

          It is the employers computer, and the employee's privacy, e-mail, Facebook account.

          By your reasoning, every ISP has a right to read your e-mails/chat/... since you use their equipment. Oh boy. Privacy matters. Look at North Korea, Iran etc. and see how they suppress opposition.

          You're correct that somebody who gets paid to do some useful (or not so useful) stuff required by an employer shouldn't be doing something else instead. Would you like your employer to get access to your home to look for things that might make you less productive? Like too much bottles of wine? Of course not. Instead, they have to keep an eye open for detecting people that are drunk or sleepy.

          Better still, monitor performance not what they do. Who cares you handle 5 private mails during the day when your productivity is 20% more than average?

          When you start sending your employees the message that they are paid for being present and not for being productive, your productivity plummets.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by youn (1516637)

            You mean like putting a small room at a major ISP with unrestricted access to the data flow... that wouldn't happen, especially in industrialized countries... heck even if it did, people would eventually find out and the telecom companies would get prosecuted... it's not like they have immunity or something ;)

      • by morcego (260031) on Monday August 23, 2010 @12:29AM (#33337498)

        You see, I think this is a really poor example.

        Traffic LAW states you cannot go over the limit. I really don't like the argument that "it is only illegal if they catch you at it". You don't like that law ? You have several options. You can not drive. You can try getting elected and get the law changed. You can lobby for a change, without even running for office. Just ignoring the law sets a very bad precedent, and actually invites more abusive laws (if you consider that law abusive).

        Now, back to the topic in question. So I own a company. I pay for the computer. I pay for the internet connection, electricity, desk, and even for the time you are there, supposed to be working. And I can't check on you ? Does that strike anyone else as utterly ridiculous ? Ok, I will accept (not agree) having to inform the employees the company will be monitoring. But not being able to check if the person is doing the work they get payed to do, is just stupid.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23, 2010 @12:43AM (#33337570)

          In Germany "LAW states you cannot go over the limit." in this case limit being you can't spy on employees. You will still know who is doing their jobs because they will get shit done while the others post stupid messages on slashdot. You most likely can still forbid them from using facebook, you just can't spy on them.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Trust is one of the things you cannot enforce by spying on your employees. And trust is something you need if you want your company to be successful and/or your employees being happy. There are a million better ways to check if they get their work done.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by vigmeister (1112659)

            Not spying on your employees is a good practice. Should good management practices be mandated?

            My take on it is that the law (common or otherwise) should grant employees an expectation of privacy even when they are at work. Companies that do want to monitor what is being done on their equipment during hours they are paying the employee should be allowed to do so. As long as they make sure they dispel this expectation.

            • by Dhalka226 (559740) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:09AM (#33338670)

              I understand where you're coming from, but I do not agree.

              What a law like this is, more than anything, is a recognition of the inherently unequal balance of power in a (potential) employer-employee relationship. Here in the US we tend to pretend that it's a mostly equal relationship and that all of this sort of thing is properly evaluated as part of the proffered salary. Some people really are studly enough that they can demand and receive anything they want from any employer they want, but the vast majority of the world isn't. In fact I'd be willing to bet the majority of workers simply feel lucky to have a job at all.

              That being the case, if this law is worth passing then it's because privacy is worth protecting. Creating a law demanding respect for an employee's privacy and simultaneously writing in a loophole that almost any company would be able to exploit to completely ignore it has no value. They may as well not write the law; it's not helping anybody.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by gnasher719 (869701)

                What a law like this is, more than anything, is a recognition of the inherently unequal balance of power in a (potential) employer-employee relationship. Here in the US we tend to pretend that it's a mostly equal relationship and that all of this sort of thing is properly evaluated as part of the proffered salary. Some people really are studly enough that they can demand and receive anything they want from any employer they want, but the vast majority of the world isn't. In fact I'd be willing to bet the majority of workers simply feel lucky to have a job at all.

                I'd say the principal political mistake is to believe that the state owes companies anything at all. The only thing that should ever count are _people_. Companies obviously need enough protection so that they can work properly to produce jobs, income to employees, goods or services to customers, profit to stakeholders. But the state doesn't owe anything to the company _per se_. Only as far as protecting companies benefits the people.

                Someone was going on here how the fact that he pays people a salary give

        • by Nossie (753694) <IanHarvie@@@4Development...Net> on Monday August 23, 2010 @12:49AM (#33337594)

          I work for the worlds largest mobile telecom (that was a hint at its name not me suggesting grandeur) and due to laws in the UK I can not have a cellphone on the floor, by company policy I would be fired for using facebook, ebay, {insert any personal site here}. Once I used hotmail to assist a customer with their on-line account and a day later IT were round asking me what I was doing. All paper used during the day is shredded, bags aren't allowed on the desks etc etc The company can and does monitor me remotely, most of which is for customer satisfaction (when the call is recorded so is our desktop) They can tell when a call is released, how long you've been in aftercall/outboud/teabreak/comfort break etc for to the milisecond and if they are suspicious they can run traces on your turret to catch something you might be up to.

          I have not been fired for reading http://www.theregister.co.uk/ [theregister.co.uk] during my shifts... Although I vaguely remember it being sanctioned once on the intranet 'useful external resources list' (for it suddenly to disappear) If they ask me then I'm using it as research. Our e-mail is monitored and yet we still send round the odd joke etc...

          Personally I don't really mind the surveillance... you are right, under company time we shouldn't be slacking. What I do not like is the acceptance we have no privacy. You are inherently taking away from me something workers 20 years ago were privileged of, although I agree you should passively monitor employees like the governent mostly monitors roads... I *HIGHLY* discourage the idea of actively tracking an employee like you might a criminal.

          Do also remember I'm from the country where there is 1 camera per 14 people monitoring you already.

          • by xnpu (963139) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:19AM (#33337720)
            How about we judge you on your performance instead? E.g. customer retention, sales, or whatever is suitable for your role. I wouldn't care if my top sales guy is on facebook all day, he would still be my top sales guy.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Nossie (753694)

              To be truthful 95% of the monitoring done is seriously for training purposes.... the company spends a lot of time with an employee each month with both the TL and employee listening to a few calls and giving a pep talk as to what they thought went well and what did not..9/10 times the employee go away from the experience with a pat on the back tips to improve and the targets are discussed with how they feel they are progressing within the company.

              If an employee gets a terrible customer satisfaction survey

            • by tukang (1209392)
              Would you care if your top sales guy was performing worse than all the bottom sales guys at your competition? In other words, would you care if you had a company wide productivity problem?
            • by Tom (822) on Monday August 23, 2010 @02:33AM (#33338046) Homepage Journal

              Most managers don't think like that, unfortunately. Remember that the majority of managers did not get anywhere by being good at anything real. It is mostly politics, connections, and being able to hide the bodies.

              To most managers, the top sales guy could be twice as good if he'd just stop slacking off at facebook all day.

              They don't understand that it may be an integral part of why he is as good as he is. Try to change him and you may find his performance changes as well - not necessarily in the desired direction.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by shaitand (626655)

            Besides that, what is the average turnover at your call center where they expect you to be working every second of the day?

            They might be able to get away with fewer reps by trying to exploit them to the max but I doubt any of them stick around long enough to get very good at what they do.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by drsmithy (35869)

          But not being able to check if the person is doing the work they get payed to do, is just stupid.

          Traditionally, this was done by people called "managers", who decided on things like "goals" the employee had to meet to be considered "productive".

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by pentalive (449155)
          Why don't you just let them do what they will during the 14-16 hours they sit in your chair. Instead of micromanaging their minutes give them set tasks and goals they they must complete. "Keep your PO list down to 3 at the end of the day", "Handle all your tickets withing a 5 hour time frame (or whatever the SLA says it should be)" or "Get the new server built, configured and online within 3 days"
          • Because managers from beancounting backgrounds don't think in terms of milestones and projects, but in terms productivity and achieved hourly rates. ie *how you are doing it*, rather than *what you are doing*.

        • by epine (68316)

          Traffic LAW states you cannot go over the limit.

          Good grief. I was recently complaining about the tendency of a certain type of voice to polarize issues without much regard for which pole they end up occupying. The primary agenda is to reduce the discussion to black/white and exclude the middle ground where intelligent discourse takes place (spamflood permitting).

          There's an entire F'ing culture in western society concerning adherence to the speed limit. It's a band of speeds in proximity to the posted lim

          • I slightly exaggerated the feebleness of a presumption of privacy.

            In the relatively rare case where a corporation and an ex-employee end up in litigation, the advocate for the employee will now find it considerable easier to argue that copious employment surveillance records are inadmissible. In future, character assassination will be less thoroughly recorded in the annals of the German courts.

            (With two 'ass'es in the previous sentence, it's no wonder my Firefox spell checker failed to suggest 'annals' in

        • by Tom (822) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:31AM (#33337788) Homepage Journal

          I pay for the internet connection, electricity, desk, and even for the time you are there, supposed to be working. And I can't check on you ? Does that strike anyone else as utterly ridiculous ?

          No, it doesn't. Your mental model isn't of employment, it's of slavery.

          I read TFA in the original language, not the crappy translation. We are talking about things like cameras in the toilets here. Yes, you definitely can't check on me there.

          And, quite frankly, it says a lot about the control freaks in management that they need to have it spelt out in a law that what I do in my private life after hours is something we used to call "private". Yes, even if I post it on Facebook for all to see. It is private in the sense that as long as my work is according to contract, it is none of your fucking business. I sold myself to you for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, if you want to have anything to do with the other 16 hours and the other 2 days, we need to renegotiate my contract including pay.

        • by c0lo (1497653)

          But not being able to check if the person is doing the work they get payed to do, is just stupid.

          While "employees doing the work they get paid" is a legitimate problem, spying on them is not necessarily the only solution. Alternate solution: checking that you get the work (results - including the time/scope/budget) that you paid for?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Now, back to the topic in question. So I own a company. I pay for the computer. I pay for the internet connection, electricity, desk, and even for the time you are there, supposed to be working. And I can't check on you ? Does that strike anyone else as utterly ridiculous ? Ok, I will accept (not agree) having to inform the employees the company will be monitoring. But not being able to check if the person is doing the work they get payed to do, is just stupid.

          I sense a big cultural difference here. You seem to assume that your employees generally are trying to slack and not doing their work. In Germany we usually assume that employees do their job and have some sort of loyalty to the company. I believe that employees tend to work better if they are shown some trust. Of course there will allways be some people who are misusing this trust, but the majority will be more productive.

          Additionally I feel there should be borders to what an employer can do with his empl

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jesseck (942036)
      No cameras? That made me think- convenience store cameras are generally pointed at the cash register, where employees work. Same with banks. Since the employees have a right to privacy, does that mean c-store or bank robberies cannot be taped?
      • Reasonable Rights (Score:3, Insightful)

        by andersh (229403)

        Your literal intepretation is unreasonable and silly.

        The whole point is to avoid unreasonable monitoring. If the primary purporse of a camera is to monitor employees actions it would illegal.

        However a camera installed to monitor the work place for safety reasons (such as a bank) would be perfectly legal.

        The purpose and coverage area would determine the legality, and remember the employer would not be the one to decide the legality (or if the supposed "purpose" is in fact in violation of the law).

    • by D4C5CE (578304) on Monday August 23, 2010 @12:51AM (#33337604)

      no cameras? So they can't utilize technology, but they're still allowed to stand behind you and watch you work, right?

      No, after a series of scandals (that went far beyond keeping employees from stealing or surfing all day), just no cameras e.g. in change rooms or rest rooms, where they wouldn't be allowed to stand in front of you and watch you undress etc. "IRL" either.
      Also, no covert widespread phone surveillance or reading of private correspondence (if allowed on company premises/equipment in the first place) under the "excuse" that they'd need to find "moles" (celebrated as whistleblowers entitled to special protection in other jurisdictions).
      The Facebook prong is an entirely different thing altogether: HR (or private investigators on their part, probably even "pre-emptively") shouldn't be allowed to intrude social networking sites as "false friends" to harvest dirt on (would-be) employees (not that anyone in their right mind should let that pile up there anyway).

      The level of detail is not necessarily the wisest way to make law, though: http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1762764&cid=33337514 [slashdot.org]

    • If you're on facebook at work when you should be working, I think the employer has a right to know about it.

      You're right when it comes to FB at work.
      TFS, however, states that the law would prevent potential employers from searching you out on FB before you're hired, to presumably prevent one from getting a job based on the inane stuff posted on FB.

    • Not Their Choice (Score:3, Interesting)

      by andersh (229403)

      You might believe an employer should have those rights, however here in Europe we actually believe in protecting and putting our citizens above corporations.

      This is not the first example of Europeans placing more emphasis on citizens' rights than the US.

      It is fascinating how even the average American believes that corporations are entitled to treat their employees as [wage] slaves! It's as if you think employees sell their dignity when they take a job!

      In my country overtime is frowned upon, if you don't le

      • by kwbauer (1677400) on Monday August 23, 2010 @02:27AM (#33338026)

        What about an employer that is not a corporation like a sole proprietor? Is that employer not also a private citizen and would have the right to watch what someone is doing with his property?

        What if the employer is a family owned business? What if the employer is a small group of citizens? What, really, difference does it make how large or small the number of owners or number of employees?

        If a society believes in and fosters the concept of private property then it must respect the rights of the owners of property to control that property.

        So, in order to protect the rights of the employed citizens, we must trample on the rights of the employing citizens. It seems to be a fair trade to some. An unfair trade to others. And then there is the group that cannot even understand that the trade exists. That latter group needs to rethink their conceptions of the world.

        • by dunkelfalke (91624) on Monday August 23, 2010 @03:41AM (#33338310)

          Employees are not property.

        • by Jedi Alec (258881) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:03AM (#33338646)

          So, in order to protect the rights of the employed citizens, we must trample on the rights of the employing citizens.

          Sorry, but if you think it is a *right* to read my e-mail or point a camera at me just because I happen to work for you...you've got bigger issues.

        • by shaitand (626655) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:29AM (#33338744) Journal

          How many actual sole props do you know of? In my experience even though there may be a sole owner that owner is usually taking advantage of some sort of artificial entity that provides him/her with liability protection and at that point we aren't talking about the owner but the entity and citizens are more important than paper entities. The right to privacy and human needs also trumps property rights since property is not required to live a happy life while privacy and other human needs are.

          "So, in order to protect the rights of the employed citizens, we must trample on the rights of the employing citizens."

          The reverse would also be true, in order to protect the rights of employing citizens we must trample on the rights of employed citizens. There are a lot more employed than employing which makes it an obvious choice.

          The primary reason for employing is to pay others less than the value of their output, sell that output for its true value, and garner the difference which we call a profit. This is done so that the employing can meet their own needs including their need for privacy. It is legal to exploit the employed in this fashion so that is not at issue. But guaranteeing the rights to the employed does not prevent the employing from performing this exploitation and garnering a profit and thus fulfilling their needs.

          Guaranteeing the property rights of the employing DOES infringe upon the needs of the employed.

          Case closed.

    • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:50AM (#33337882) Homepage Journal

      Your employee isn't your son. Children have severely curtailed rights under the supervision of their parents.

      You are arguing that corporations are parents of workers who are children without rights.

    • by sjames (1099) on Monday August 23, 2010 @02:33AM (#33338044) Homepage

      Only if an employer is a legal guardian. You bear considerably more responsibility for your son than an employer does for an employee, so you have considerably more right to watch over him. There is also a presumption (true for the vast majority of parents) that you genuinely have your son's best interests at heart, above even your own. This is never true of an employer for an employee (except in a family business of course).

      Note that the toilets at work also belong to your employer and if you visit them while at work, you're on your employer's time. Does that make video to a voyeur site fair? I'll guess that you don't think so and thus acknowledge that there is at least SOME expectation of privacy at work and the only argument is over how much. Further that mere ownership of the hardware and being on the employer's time is not necessarily sufficient to negate the expectation of privacy.

      There is actually a big difference between a manager standing behind you and a camera. You are able to watch the watcher (literally and figuratively) when the watching is done in person.

      As for facebook, they're meaning at all. As in they can't t electronically follow you around after work to decide if they like how you live your life, they must make their decisions based on what you do at work.

    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday August 23, 2010 @02:42AM (#33338078)

      That would be like me saying I can't put a GPS on my car to keep tabs on where it goes when my son drives it.

      I don't know about "can't," but maybe you shouldn't (unless you have reason to think he's running drugs across the border.) If he's old enough to drive, then he's old enough to be off the leash a little. Trying to keep tabs on him at all times might just make him be less open about where he was with you.

      Similarly, there are situations where I could understand electronic monitoring of employees, but in most cases I'd expect surveillance would just make the employer/employee relationship more adversarial and less productive.

      Note that I am not a parent, nor do I know anything about management. Idle speculation and gut feelings only.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      [...] I think the employer has a right to know about it.[...]but they're still allowed to stand behind you and watch you work, right? [...]

      Measure productivity instead of putting your employees under surveillance.

      The meek inherit the totalitarian regime...

  • woohoo! (Score:2, Funny)

    by wces423 (686579)
    all the pron will be SFW, now!
  • Um, yeah... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lord Kano (13027) on Monday August 23, 2010 @12:10AM (#33337404) Homepage Journal

    Also, potential employers would not be allowed to view an applicant's profile at Facebook or any other social network that hasn't actually been made for this purpose.

    How would they go about enforcing this? Couldn't an employer argue that any content on a social networking profile that someone makes available to the public, was made for everyone to see? Failing that, how do you prove when an employer looks at a public profile?

    LK

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by BradleyUffner (103496)

      Failing that, how do you prove when an employer looks at a public profile?

      Easy, just install a video camera to record what they visit.

    • Re:Um, yeah... (Score:5, Informative)

      by SudoGhost (1779150) on Monday August 23, 2010 @12:14AM (#33337424)
      The poster did a bad job of translating the article into his own words. The companies cannot use the social networking sites, such as Facebook, when making a decision about who to hire, and cannot fire people over content on those sites. But even that has conditions.
  • Can't Log Emails? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jesseck (942036) on Monday August 23, 2010 @12:14AM (#33337422)
    This seems absurd... all my mail servers log employees' email every day. Even worse, my spam filters read the entire message to make sure it is acceptable- before allowing delivery to the employee. These privacy measures may sound great on paper, but not all will work. If IT cannot log emails, how do we troubleshoot email delivery problems? Of course, I may be taking this to the next level, completely ignoring the actual wording of the proposed law.
    • by shawb (16347) on Monday August 23, 2010 @12:28AM (#33337494)
      From the article:

      Spy on emails and phone calls from: These rules include the conditions under which companies their employees such as telephone or e-mail traffic control should the telecoms. The access options are linked to this vast information and documentation requirements and vary by type of operation and the individual agreed use of technical equipment.

      That should clarify it for you.

    • You misread (Score:3, Informative)

      by aepervius (535155)
      Firstly usually automated "logging" for the express purpose of administration and automated work of server is always allowed. The specific purpose of reading email log in attempting to read the content one is not the destination is not allowed, depending on the firm type & Betriebsvereinbarung (Firm agreement ?). That is way different than how you read it. And yes I read the german article and know a bit on the local laws. Whoever modded you insightful did neither.
  • Per JFK [youtube.com], we're all covered. :-)

  • by D4C5CE (578304) on Monday August 23, 2010 @12:31AM (#33337514)
    ...enforcement (by understaffed Data Protection authorities which -a bit like the firemen of Fahrenheit 451- now even have to help "the other side" identity citizens who try to exercise their rights with respect to SWIFT snooping [heise.de]) if employers' intrusions of privacy (to that point that even surveillance cameras on the loo [spiegel.de] now need to be explicitly banned) in the jurisdiction that pretty much "invented" habeas data.

    Trouble is, by regulating lots of nitty-gritty details instead of a broad "Constitutional right"-style protection, one makes it even harder for the law to keep up with progress - while exposing the loopholes most clearly to those determined to use them with impunity.

    To quote Portalis, one of the masterminds behind the French Civil Code:

    Quoi que l'on fasse, les lois positives ne sauraient jamais entièrement remplacer l'usage de la raison naturelle dans les affaires de la vie. Les besoins d'une société sont si variés, la communication des hommes est si active, leurs intérêts sont si multipliés, et leurs rapports si étendus, qu'il est impossible au législateur de pourvoir à tout.

  • by JackieBrown (987087) <dbroome@gmail.com> on Monday August 23, 2010 @12:50AM (#33337598)

    How do they determine what is a private email or call versus private?

    At my job (granted that is in the US,) if it is using company resources, then it is work related. I have to sign several papers agreeing to that when I am hired (and every year or so they make us sign it again.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by melmut (968751)
      I think there is some big cultural difference here between the US and Europe. I worked as a sysadmin for a few years. As far as I know, monitoring employees is completely illegal here (Belgium). You can't read emails or try to see which web sites have been visited by an employee. At most, you can make anonymous statistics, and I think you have to warn employees before. I don't think it would be legal to physically watch an employee all day, neither. Having employees sign some kind of agreement would be ille
  • Summary fail (Score:2, Informative)

    by edjs (1043612)
    Just looking at the "ban employers from surveilling their employees by cameras or logging and reading their emails" sections of the translated article, it's clear that it mentions banning cameras in traditionally private places such as wash rooms, but allowing open surveillance in areas where it makes a business/safety sense to do so, and I think it says telephone/email monitoring will be allowed (and probably required) based on regulations covering the industry in question; I see nothing about banning.
  • If you want to prevent your employees from using facebook and similar sites, make it a firewall rule that redirects to a page clearly stating that it is blocked and be done with it. Also be sure to publish a clear acceptable use policy.

    However, it is a violation of the rights of privacy for a prospective employer or existing employer to check out the facebook sites of either current or prospective employees.

  • Defense agencies and contractors in the US monitor all employee computer use, and I don't expect that to change here any time soon - and I don't really have a problem with it. Is this law going to apply to the German government as well?
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:54AM (#33337902) Homepage Journal

    The stories about privacy protections always seem to favor personal privacy in Europe, but to favor privacy invasion in the US. How do Europeans get better protection? European government looks a lot more bureaucratic and controlled access than even the US, which I would think would favor industry which has the time and money to ensure privacy can be abused for power and profit. Maybe it's because the protections begin at the state level, which is more accessible than the EU as a whole, while in the US state privacy protections aren't as powerful as Federal protections for invading them, or just a vacuum of protections at the Federal level. Or maybe EU privacy orgs are just more effective, perhaps better funded, than the US ones like EFF. Or maybe we just get the news of only privacy protection from EU, not privacy abuse, while in the US we get the abuse news so we're conditioned to accept it.

    How do Europeans do it? I'm jealous.

    • by yyxx (1812612)

      Many of these protections are already in place in the US and Europe is just catching up. For example, US employers have been limited for years in how they can use social networking sites, based on existing US non-discrimination and privacy laws. Many of those restrictions in the US are based on case law; they don't require separate legislation. In Europe, legislators need to pass many more explicit laws, and a lot of that is knee-jerk reactions to recent events and populist legislation that sounds good o

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DamonHD (794830)

        Really?

        There's a universal assumption of respect for (and illegality of reusing without permission) personal data for example in your US?

        Must be a different US and EU than I know about then.

        Rgds

        Damon

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hmmm (115599)

      Businesses in Europe haven't cottoned on to creating a Fox News equivalent, which would accuse politicians of being "liberal muslims!!!" every time they bring in new regulation for business.

    • by Aceticon (140883) on Monday August 23, 2010 @04:51AM (#33338594)

      Most of European countries have more than 2 ellectable parties unlike the US were the only 2 ellectable parties defend the same vested interests but have 2 different public faces to deceive the plebes.

      Also average education in Europe is higher (lower and mid-level schools systems are beter than the US).

      In addition to that, most European countries have long histories of being under and fighting dictatorships, conquering powers and oppressive monarchies (the US had ONE revolution while your average European country has been throwing out conquerors since before the times of the Roman Empire). While in the US people talk loudly about the need for less government (while government actually concentrates on promoting the interests of a minority) in Europe governments are less prone to promote some minority of people at the cost of the majority (otherwise they would, at the very least be faced with massive strikes and maybe rebellion) - the contrast between the talk of less government in the US and the government that actually has to please the citizens in most of Europe kinda reminds me of the saying from my country that "The dog that barks is not the one that bites": in Europe we "bark" less but "bite" when needed.

      Last but not least, in most of Europe there's still a belief in social safety nets (avoiding that people fall too far into poverty) and social fairness (avoiding that those with more resources, like rich individuals and large companies, get more benefits than those with less resources), ideas which in the US would be shouted-away by the brainwashed ignorant masses as communism.

      That said, Europe is a large place with many languages and cultures - things can vary quite a bit, for example, between Northern European countries and Mediterranean Countries. Also of late many American cultural and economical practices have been imported, more so to places with a weak history of throwing out oppressors - though the recent recession has 'caused a re-evaluation of the "success" of the American Model.

    • by Qbertino (265505) on Monday August 23, 2010 @04:57AM (#33338624)

      Today Europeans in general and Germans particularly know what happens if you let governments screw around to much. We've already tried out the prime example of a fascist regime, the one and only, the Mercedes-Benz class of totalitarian states, so to speak. And it ain't pretty, trust me on that one. Curiously enough, I have the entire spectrum of sides in the 'Third Reich' in my family. My US Grandpa was there on D-Day, my German Grandpa is a Type-A Waffen-SS /SD Officer - (Kompanieführer) still alive and kicking at 96, (blacklisted in the US too ... the whole shebang), and my uncle was a Jew on the run from the Gestapo and the SS, hiding away in sewers and all that. We've basically got it all here in one spot, German post-war offspring from US soldiers (f.e. me), old Nazis, art-class comrades that where 'unerwünschte Personen' ('unwelcome persons') in eastern Germany before the reunification, etc. pp. If you're only the slightest bit interested, you get a full-scale rundown of what happens when things in politics and public affairs go hairwire or head down the wrong road. The mechanisims aren't trivial, but there all the same, be they Nazi, Commie, Fundamentalist Islam or whatnot. Very interesting live history lessons to be made here indeed. One of the upsides of living in Germany.

      And while a basic trust in law and order is commomplace around western Europe Civil - manly due to the dence population and a historically grown optimization of things, civil disobedience and a basic sence of educated distrust is also quite commonplace around here. I presume the latter is due to a (still) relatively high level of education among the general population.

      God help us all when the US comes around to taking it's shot at fascisim.

  • by OrangeTide (124937) on Monday August 23, 2010 @02:23AM (#33338004) Homepage Journal

    I remember East Germany. That was a time and place where privacy was an absurd concept. Where has the US gone since the cold war? It doesn't feel much different to me.

  • Terrible Summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by timbo234 (833667) on Monday August 23, 2010 @02:43AM (#33338084) Journal

    The idea that you can understand something like privacy laws, which are complex and nuanced, from a half-nonsense google translate is just crap. My German isn't perfect but here are the main points of the article from the German original (http://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/soziales/0,1518,713153,00.html):

    * Video surveillance is banned in areas that have a 'private character' to them such as toilets, change rooms and rest/break rooms. It's still allowed in other areas as long as employees are informed and there's no attempt to hide the cameras

    * Recruitment - no data from social networks such as Facebook may be used as part of the recruitment process, social networks specifically designed for recruitment (I reckon they mean ones like Linkedin) are still allowed to be used

    * You're still allowed to use any other publicly accessible data off the net, although there may be restrictions related to how old it is or whether the employee/candidate has access to update or remove the data

    * Medical examinations - may only be used when there's a good reason

    * Screening (they define it as comprehensive comparisons of one employee against another) may only be used under strict conditions. The data must be handled anonymously unless it shows strong evidence of a problem (eg. criminal activity).

    * The law establishes conditions under which phone and email communication can be monitored. These conditions vary depending on documentation requirements, the type of business and the individual usage agreements for IT in each company.

  • Hypocrites (Score:3, Interesting)

    by janwedekind (778872) on Monday August 23, 2010 @03:42AM (#33338322) Homepage

    At the same time the German government mandates Vorratsdatenspeicherung (telecommunications data retention [wikipedia.org]) and we would have internet censorship now if it wasn't for the federal constitutional court.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by SlothDead (1251206)

      Didn't you hear? Vorratsdatenspeicherung was abolished. And that internet censorship stuff was just some campaigning stunt the conservatives pulled of to get more popular with conservative voters.

  • by fadir (522518) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:32AM (#33338756)

    Yes, I know this might come as a shocker to many but there are people, companies, managers and even governments (not necessarily the German one though) that do not see a human as a pure cost factor, comparable to a machine on the assembly line or the rent for the office.

    A human should be treated as such and surprisingly will perform quite well if done so. What do you expect from someone who is monitored 24/7 (or at least 8+/5), whose work time is recorded by the second? Sure, that might work for really basic jobs, like cleaning the roads or the like. But for anything a little more demanding or even remotely creative (yes, even working in a lousy call centre requires some creativity at times) this will result in frustration and delivery of the minimal required performance instead of the maximum possible.

    Stop to treat your employees like animals in a barn and you might notice a surprise: productivity goes up!

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