Council of Europe: Don't spy on your staff, you naughty employers

Barking watchdog? More like a neighbour's yapping poodle

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Are staff in the dark about company surveillance?

Private electronic communications at work should not be monitored under any circumstances says the Council of Europe (not-an-EU-institution™).

The organisation, which has 47 signatory countries, issued its latest recommendation on privacy at work to update its previous advice, which dates from 1989. You can't accuse them of rushing into anything.

The recommendation – which is all the CoE can do, as it has no legislative powers – is aimed at both public and private sectors. In a nutshell it says that employers have no right to unreasonable interference with employees’ private lives even in the workplace.

It says that if bosses want to stop their employees using Facebook or other time-wasters, they should employ preventive measures such as filters to block sites, rather than monitor their use.

Furthermore, employers should let staff know if they are going to read “the professional electronic communications” and then only for “legitimate reasons”.

“Private electronic communications at work should not be monitored under any circumstances,” continues the text. Other forms of monitoring such as video cameras, fingerprinting or other biometric data should only be used as a last resort, according to the CoE.

Such surveillance should be “subject to strict conditions” and used “only if there are no other less intrusive means available”.

Finally, everyone should have the right to know what their employers know about them, as well as what bosses are doing with that data.

All in all, pretty big barking from a toothless watchdog. ®

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