Monitoring employee's Internet breaches human rights, says ECHR

By EDRi · April 12, 2007

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

The Welsh Government, through Carmarthenshire College, was found in breach
of human rights by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for having
monitored one of the college employee’s e-mails, internet traffic and
telephone calls.

As the College is publicly funded, Lynette Copland sued the government for
infringing Art.8 of the European Convention on Human Rights that says
“everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home
and his correspondence”.

The government argued that the monitoring was carried out in order to
establish whether Copland had extensively used college resources for
personal communication, but the court ruled that: “The court is not
convinced by the government’s submission that the college was authorised
under its statutory powers to do ‘anything necessary or expedient’ for the
purposes of providing higher and further education, and finds the argument

Copland claimed that her correspondence had been monitored for about 18
months by the headmaster of the college who even contacted some of the
people with whom she had communicated to ask for the nature of their
communications. The government admitted the monitoring but stated it had
lasted only a few months.

The Court ruling was that “According to the court’s case-law, telephone
calls from business premises are prima facie covered by the notions of
‘private life’ and ‘correspondence’ ” and that “It follows logically that
emails sent from work should be similarly protected under article eight, as
should information derived from the monitoring of personal internet usage.”

“The applicant in the present case had been given no warning that her calls
would be liable to monitoring, therefore she had a reasonable expectation as
to the privacy of calls made from her work telephone. The same expectation
should apply in relation to the applicant’s e-mail and internet usage.”

The college had no policy to inform employees they might be monitored and
Copland had received no warning on this.

“The ruling is important in that it reinforces the need for a statutory
basis for any interference with respect to private use of a
telecommunications system by an employee… The lawful business practice
regulations (part of RIPA) allow an employer to monitor and intercept
business communications, so the Court is implying that private use of a
telecommunications system, assuming it is authorised via an acceptable use
policy, can be protected.” said Dr Chris Pounder, a privacy specialist at
Pinsent Masons.

The Court awarded Copland 3,000 Euros in damages and 6,000 Euros in costs
and expenses.

European Court of Human Rights – Copland vs. The United Kingdom (3.04.2007)

EU court rules monitoring of employee breached human rights (5.04.2007)

Court of Human Rights protects the private use of the Internet (4.04.2007)

Monitoring of employee breached human rights, says European court