Employers can’t use keylogging spyware, German court rules

Although European Union employee monitoring laws allow employers to monitor work stations and even keystrokes, email content and screens, the Federal Labor Court in Germany ruled on Thursday that any information obtained with keystroke-tracking software can’t be used against an employee, as it was obtained illegally, and is in violation of personal rights.

“Professional lawyers suggest following 7 basic principles so the monitoring in place is used properly according to the EU laws. The principles are as follows (refer above): Necessity, Finality, Transparency, Legitimacy, Proportionality, Accuracy and retention of data, Security. Following those rules ensures that there is a business need for monitoring, that employees are aware of monitoring, that employees’ rights are not violated, employees’ personal data is protected,” writes WorkTime.

Spy software is commonly used by companies to keep a close eye on employee activity and to make sure they don’t engage in unrelated activities. The Federal Labor Court ruled against it, after a web developer working for a media agency was fired for using company resources to develop a game for another company.

According to an email sent out in 2015, employees had been informed that internet traffic and activity on company devices would be documented and saved. After installing keylogger software, the company took screenshots of employees’ activity and recorded keystrokes.

This was not the first time an employee was fired for conducting personal business during office hours. In 2007, a Romanian engineer was fired for sending personal messages from his Yahoo chat. After a Romanian court of justice ruled against him, he took the matter to the Human Rights Court a year later indicating the company’s decision was in violation with his personal rights. However, the Human Rights Court ruled against his case, claiming he had not “convincingly explained why he had used the Yahoo messenger account for personal purposes.”

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