In early 2016, a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) case (Barbulescu v. Romania) attracted much publicity because it appeared to give employers the green light to read employees’ private emails (read our original commentary here). The decision in the original case has now been overturned by the Grand Chamber of the ECHR.


The case concerned a Romanian national, Bogdan Mihai Bărbulescu. Mr Bărbulescu had been dismissed after his employer monitored his work-related Yahoo Messenger account and discovered that Mr Bărbulescu had used it for private communications, including messages to his brother and fiancée, which was in breach of the employer’s internal policies.

After unsuccessfully bringing employment claims in the Romanian courts, Mr Bărbulescu brought his case before the ECHR, claiming that Romania had failed to protect his Article 8 right under the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to respect for his private and family life, his home, and correspondence.

The Fourth Section of the ECHR dismissed Mr Bărbulescu’s claim, who then appealed to the Grand Chamber of the ECHR.
Continue Reading EU Case Confirms That Employers Do Not Have Carte Blanche For Workplace Monitoring

In a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (“ECHR”) handed down in July 2015, the right to respect for individuals’ privacy balance trumped journalists’ right to freedom of expression.

In the case of Satakunnan Markkinapörssi and Satamedia v. the Republic of Finland, it was decided that Finnish magazine, Veröporssi (“V”), could be prevented from storing, publishing and offering an SMS enquiry service involving personal tax information about individuals. This was despite the fact that (a) the information had already been published by the Finnish tax authorities and (b) V had been publishing annual information about individuals’ taxable income and assets. 
Continue Reading What is public can still be ‘private’: European Court of Human Rights halts journalists from re-publishing Finnish citizens’ public tax information

In the recent case of Delfi v Estonia [2015] (no. 64569/09), the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which is part of the Council of Europe, introduced the principle that websites could be liable for comments posted by users.

The case involved a news article that Delfi, a commercial news portal, posted on its website involving the delayed production of an ice road that linked Estonia’s mainland to islands off the country’s west coast. Threatening comments were added to the comments section directed at the director of the ferry company responsible for the delay, but were not picked up by the website’s filtering system, and six weeks lapsed before these comments were removed by the website’s operators. The article itself was balanced and concerned a matter of public interest; however, the ECHR found that Delfi should have anticipated offensive comments and been more proactive in removing the hostile comments as they were posted.Continue Reading European Court of Human Rights finds website operators responsible for user comments