Workplace Surveillance: Big Brother Is Watching You?

AuthorCorneliu Bîrsan, Laura-Cristiana Spataru-Negura
LESIJ NO. XXV, VOL. 1/2018
Corneliu BÎRSAN
Laura-Cristiana SPTARU-NEGUR
Only recently workplace surveillance has become a rea l concern of the internationa l
community. Very often we hear about employers who monitor and record the actions of their employees,
in or der to check for any br eaches of company poli cies or procedures, to ensure that appropria te
behaviour standar ds are being met and that company proper ty, confidential information a nd
intellectual property is not being damaged. Surveillance at workplace may include inter alia monitoring
of telephone and internet use, opening of per sonal files stored on a professional computer, video
surveillance. But what if this monitoring or recording br eaches human rights?
In or der to give practica l examples for these means, we shall proceed to a chronological
analysis of the most relevant cases dealt by the Eur opean Court of Human Rights along the time, in
which the Strasbourg judges decided tha t the measures ta ken by the employers exceed the limits given
by Article 8 of the Convention. After pr oviding the most relevant examples from the Court’s case-law
in this field, we shall ana lyse the outcome of th e recent Gra nd Chamber Barbulescu v. Romania
The purpose of this study is to offer to the interested lega l professionals and to the domestic
authorities of the Member States the information in order to adequately pr otect the right of each
individual to respect for his or her pr ivate life and correspondence under the European Convention on
Human Rights.
Keywords: ECHR, employee, human rights, workplace surveillance.
1. Introductive Remarks
We all have been in the situation, at
one point, of using at wor k the company
resources for personal interest. What did you
do? Did you stop before doing it and thought
you are not allowed to use them? Did you
remember that the internal regulations
prohibited the use of company resources by
the employees? Or does your company have
a policy for employee personal use of
Professor Emeritus, PhD, Faculty of Law, “Nicolaeă Titulescu”ă University,ă Bucharest (e-mail:
 Assistantă Lecturer,ă PhD,ă Facultyă ofă Law,ă “Nicolaeă Titulescu”ă University,ă Bucharestă (e-mail:
business equipment or a code of ethics and
business conduct? Did you go to t he
management and asked for permission? Did
you use them and thought that nobody else
will find out? What if your employer decided
to monitor the employees’ communicatio ns
and you did not even know? What if you
knew, and you still have decided to use them
anyhow? And if we would tell you that
certain workplace surveillance techniques
could violate your human rights? Mo st
probably you will ask us: what does

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