European Court Ruling Possible Good News for Privacy Advocates

April 13, 2007 ( - In a case involving an employee of a South Wales college, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that monitoring employees' Internet and phone use at work may violate European human rights laws.

The rulingmeans that the private use of company telecommunications equipment and Internet access may be protected under European human rights legislation, if the company has an acceptable personal-use policy and fails to inform employees that their communications may be monitored, according to a CNET News report.

Employee communications are also covered by human rights legislation if the organization has no explicit acceptable-use policy and fails to inform employees of the monitoring of personal e-mail, the news report said.

The case involvesCarmarthenshire College employee Lynette Copland who successfully took the U.K. government to court after her personal Internet usage and telephone calls were monitored by one of her bosses in 1999, according to CNET News. She won $5,910 in damages and $11,820 in court costs and expenses.

Copland brought the case against the government after her communications were intercepted by the deputy principal of the college, a publicly funded body where she was employed as a personal assistant to the college principal.

Her lawyers successfully argued that the activity breached her rights under Article 8 of the Convention on Human Rights, which says that “everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”