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Germany To Grant Privacy At the Workplace 450

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

    by SudoGhost ( 1779150 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:14AM (#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.
  • by Nossie ( 753694 ) <IanHarvie@@@4Development...Net> on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:49AM (#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 [] 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 JackieBrown ( 987087 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:50AM (#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.)

  • by D4C5CE ( 578304 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:51AM (#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: []

  • Summary fail (Score:2, Informative)

    by edjs ( 1043612 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:57AM (#33337634)
    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.
  • You misread (Score:3, Informative)

    by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @02:34AM (#33337794)
    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.
  • Re:Um, yeah... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Seth Kriticos ( 1227934 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @02:36AM (#33337802)

    In other words, they are now let go with a "We don't need you [anymore]."

    That's not how things work in Germany. There is an elaborate law framework that prevent that, so if the employer wants to get rid of you without reason, he'll have to wait at least 3 months. Otherwise he'll have to present a damn good reason to fire you (like severe work neglect, financial damage or some kind of criminal activity).

    Obviously there are gray areas and some folks try things, but the legal support for the workforce (there is a special court for work related issues, and you don't have to ramp up huge court fees) is very strong here, so it's not that common. You have to pay for your lawyer though, but the fees are also regulated, so you don't have to come up with ridiculous fees.

  • by andreicio ( 1209692 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @02:38AM (#33337810)

    That's the thing, this is about Germany. Of course there will be those that take advantage, but generally speaking the employed population is much more serious and correct about their jobs than in other countries.

    Also: the job of the boss is to know what each of his subordonates had to to that day/week and check if it's done. If an employee can trick the boss with stuff like "i was on the phone", than there's a bigger problem with the boss than the subordonate.

  • by yyxx ( 1812612 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @03:22AM (#33337998)

    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 on the surface but that nobody knows how it's going to work out in the long run.

    And you're also right that a lot of European privacy abuse just isn't reported on much in the US. For example, the law in the story was prompted by several huge scandals in which big German companies spied on their employees, again in ways that are already totally illegal under US law.

    Other European privacy abuses aren't even perceived as such in Europe; people are just used to a more intrusive government. Many other European privacy abuses aren't visible at all. For example, despite all the brouhaha over Google Streetview in Germany (=big evil US corporation), it turns out that the German government itself regularly does detailed aerial surveys and precise GPS measurements of buildings and sells that information to anybody willing to pay for it (starting at around $200k); that data really is problematic, since it not only shows in great detail private areas protected by fences, but also is being used to charge individuals with code violations. And it's quite clear that European intelligence services spy on their citizens without as much as anybody even batting an eye.

    Much of the "Europe is better" perception is a myth, created by the European media and European governments to make Europeans happy, and some of that propaganda spills over into the US.

  • Terrible Summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by timbo234 ( 833667 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @03:43AM (#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 (,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.

  • Re:Inventory (Score:2, Informative)

    by maxwell demon ( 590494 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @04:04AM (#33338154) Journal

    Yes, it's time to get a job in a German warehouse: As warehouse detective!
    Oh, and don't forget that it's certainly not forbidden to tag your wares with RFID. Indeed, this already is widely used to prevent theft (the RFIDs are disabled at the cash desks so they don't trigger alarms for bought stuff; I guess there's a trail of this so any mismatch between disabled RFID wares and cash contents can be tracked to the cash desk worker (after all, it doesn't matter for the warehouse whether the cash desk worker takes the ware unpaid, or takes the cash of a customer who paid).

  • by PseudonymousBraveguy ( 1857734 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @04:07AM (#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 @04:49AM (#33338352)

    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:Hypocrites (Score:3, Informative)

    by SlothDead ( 1251206 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:40AM (#33338564)

    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 azalin ( 67640 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @08:02AM (#33339196)

    Several companies pushed things a little to far in recent years and collected information in ways and amounts that would have made the StaSi (or any other secret police) proud. The new law would not not only put a limit to these (in several cases already illegal) practices, but also give the companies clear guidelines on what to do if they suspect theft or abuse.
    Lidl (a large discount chain) did especially well in the illegal data collection field if you need something to Google.

    If you do not trust your employees by default you are not worthy of loyalty.

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears