Nosy bosses CANNOT read your private WhatsApp conversations due to ECHR ruling

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By Katie King on

Reporters can’t resist getting a human rights story wrong


The media has sparked public outrage by suggesting that nosy bosses can now track their employees’ private messages.

No, they can’t.

The European Court of Human Rights yesterday ruled in the case of Bogdan Bărbulescu, a Romanian worker who was sacked in 2007 for using his Yahoo account to send personal messages to his fiancée and brother.

Siding with Bărbulescu’s employer, the court decided that it was “not unreasonable that an employer would want to verify that employees were completing their professional tasks during working hours.”

The case has sparked a media frenzy, the Daily Star going with the nuanced headline:

WARNING: Your boss can now legally read every WhatsApp message you send at work

And the equally subtle, and inaccurate, standfirst:

OUTRAGE as EU court rules it’s OK for bosses to snoop on their employees’ messages

But do not fear.

Bărbulescu’s Yahoo account was set up to answer clients’ queries, so was not actually a personal account at all. The case is no precedent for the idea that bosses can now monitor employees’ “private messages”, as reported by The Independent.

The newspaper also commented:

Rulings of the European Court of Human Rights are binding to countries which have ratified the European Convention on Human Rights, including the UK.

As any eagle eyed lawyer will know, courts are bound only to “take into account” Strasbourg case law, under s2 of the Human Rights Act 1998. And, in some cases, the UK seems to have completely ignored them.

So don’t fret — there is no need to “turn off your squad chat notifications”, as encouraged by The Tab.

Read the judgment in full below:

Case of Barbulescu v. Romania