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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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  • Um, yeah... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:10AM (#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?


  • by jesseck ( 942036 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:16AM (#33337428)
    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?
  • by morcego ( 260031 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:29AM (#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 @02:17AM (#33337716)

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

  • Please, Login... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23, 2010 @02:25AM (#33337762)

    You realize companies in the US now ask you to login to Facebook during the interview?

    That would be illegal in Germany and for good reasons!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23, 2010 @02:46AM (#33337854)

    How are you going to know what goals to set when you don't know how much work they can do?

  • Not Their Choice (Score:3, Interesting)

    by andersh ( 229403 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @02:47AM (#33337868)

    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 leave at the end of the day people will wonder why you haven't finished your tasks in time. Staying after hours is just seen as inefficient. So while we work fewer hours than the average American we're still more productive and efficient according to the OECD.

    I think you're all semi-brainwashed by decades of anti-communist, nationalist [capitalist] propaganda. I hope it wears off soon for your own sakes, the average American could use some decent jobs, rights and protections. Contrary to popular American beliefs the United States of America is not the best country in the world.

  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @02:54AM (#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 xnpu ( 963139 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @03:14AM (#33337974)
    I don't disagree Facebook can make performance suffer. I'm just saying I'll fire the affected person for poor performance, not for using Facebook.
  • by Kireas ( 1784888 ) * on Monday August 23, 2010 @03:28AM (#33338032) 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.
  • by Liambp ( 1565081 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @03:51AM (#33338100)

    Sounds like a good law to me but I assume that a complementary suite of protection is required to indemnify the employer against any activities undertaken by an employee under the protection of privacy. For example if an employee sends you a hate mail using a company email account then then you cannot sue the company.

  • by LKM ( 227954 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @04:39AM (#33338306) Homepage

    There are studies. []

    The University of Melbourne study showed that people who use the Internet for personal reasons at work are about 9 percent more productive that those who do not.
    "Short and unobtrusive breaks, such as a quick surf of the Internet, enables the mind to rest itself, leading to a higher total net concentration for a days' work, and as a result, increased productivity," he said.

  • Hypocrites (Score:3, Interesting)

    by janwedekind ( 778872 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @04:42AM (#33338322) Homepage

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

  • by yyxx ( 1812612 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:53AM (#33338604)

    It's really a difference in legal systems.

    In continental Europe, protections enumerated in a constitution or principles stated in some law cannot be enforced; legislators generally need to translate those protections into specific laws every time a new situation or new technology arises.

    In the US, constitutional protections and principles can be enforced by the courts through common law without legislators having to get involved. Legislators only need to get involved when court decisions start deviating significantly from the will of the people. For example, privacy in the US is well protected, but mostly through common law.

  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <> on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:57AM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23, 2010 @06:23AM (#33338712)

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

    From the summary: "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."

    It seems that the German government wants to decide that FaceBook is not relevant for HR.

  • by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @06:24AM (#33338722) Homepage Journal

    In the US, (IMHO very bad) court decisions have made it so that businesses - corporations - are commonly treated as if they were persons under the law. This leads more or less naturally to weighing the rights of the corporations against the rights of a flesh-and-blood person; and when a corporation contributes more to the public trough than the citizen does, the outcome is often a foregone conclusion.

    Lately, it's been rattling around in my old head that perhaps, instead of treating corporations like persons, we should treat them like useful, but very dangerous, viruses. Comparable to one that generates some useful end product, but would eat your flesh off if you got any on you. Because other than the end products they make, I'm really hard put to think of much good corporations do unless they're legislated into a corner and forced into it.

    In this case, the nagging thing is that if there's corporation on the one hand, and it thinks it has a right to look at your credit history, your online activity, or how you crap in the bathroom, and an actual person on the other, who thinks they have a right to privacy... you know, I'm probably going to side with the person. Perhaps we should be thinking how to best rein in corporations instead of how to rein in employees. Legally.

    Might this disadvantage the corporation? Yeah, it might. Just like the constitution disadvantages (well, is supposed to) the government. My response to that is that if the corporation wants to ensure the person's loyalty and fidelity, that they do so by ensuring that the person in question has every reason to feel that serving the corporation is the best choice. Rather than depending on rights-eroding legislation to trap the employee into a regimented behavior pattern they really don't support.

    Perhaps they could start by paying a little less to the top levels, pruning the ridiculously incompetent middle management, and compensating the people who do the actual work a little better. Maybe even provide decent healthcare, you know? Radical, I know, but it's late, and I'm riding the caffeine monkey, or vice versa. All I'm sure of right now is that the ringing in my ears isn't the damned liberty bell.

  • by fadir ( 522518 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @06:32AM (#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!

Forty two.