European court rules employers can monitor workers private messages

A Romanian man has lost a case after he was fired

European Court of Human Rights, online messages, employers, ruling, Romania, ECHR, online, social media

A member of the public uses a Palm Handheld PDA computer | Image: Scott Montgomery / PA Archive/PA Images

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that employers can monitor employees' private online messages.

The ruling came from a case involving a Romanian engineer who was fired after using Yahoo Messenger.

It was found he used the service not only to communicate with professional contacts, but also to send messages to his fiancée and brother.

The man alleged his employer's decision to terminate his contract had been a breach of his right to respect for his private life.

But the court found that, by six votes to one, there has been no violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

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Article 8 states: "Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence".

It adds that: "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".

Fergal Creehan is a barrister specialising in internet privacy.

He told Newstalk Breakfast this ruling has been a long time coming.

Read the court's ruling in full here