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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that employers are entitled to monitor an employee's activities at work, even if they infringe on their privacy by monitoring private conversations.

In 2007, Bogdan Barbulescu was fired by his Romanian employer, after they had monitored his online activity and concluded that he used company resources during working hours to have private conversations.

The company said that Barbulescu used a Yahoo! Messenger account to have private conversations, even providing as proof a 45-page document containing transcripts of his private discussions.

Romanian judges sided with the employer
Barbulescu sued the employer for breaking his privacy, stating that he didn't use the company's Yahoo! Messenger account, but his own, so the company wasn't entitled to snoop on his conversations.

Romanian judges disagreed and sided with the employer, citing the country's Labor Code, which allowed the employer to terminate his contract.

Barbulescu then took his case to the ECHR, where he claimed that Article 8 of the Human Rights Convention granted him the right to a private life and correspondence.

The court issued yesterday a ruling on this legal quandary, which also binds all countries that adhered to the European Convention on Human Rights (entire Eurozone).

ECHR says that companies are entitled to monitor employees
Six out of the seven ECHR judges sided with the company, saying that an employee must not use the time and resources allocated to their job to engage in other non-work related activities. Additionally, the judges also said that the employee was entitled to fire Barbulescu, being an appropriate punishment for his actions.

The ruling also said that, from now onwards, companies should also explain and notify employees if they monitor and log all their Internet activities, and they should also get consent from the employee in writing.

Despite the negative ruling for Barbulescu, during the ECHR hearing, Judge Paulo Pinto de Albuquerque also made an interesting statement, saying that "employees don't leave their rights for a private life and the protection of private data every day at the door when they arrive at work."

The court was not clear if this ruling applies in cases where employees use personal devices, and not the company's equipment and Internet service, to have these conversations.