On 22 February, the European Court of Human Rights lent its backing to the stance adopted by the French Court of Cassation, which ruled that an employer may check worker files without their knowledge, when they are not identified as “private”. In this particular case, the worker in question had renamed his hard disk “données personnelles”, or ‘personal information’, meaning he’d used a significant portion of his work computer’s storage to hold contentious files. There are numerous facets to the decision. Beyond the fact that the court’s conclusion applies to everyone, it has a particular resonance in France, as it indicates that the guarantees that French legal authorities have in place are sufficient. It is also of relevance to public companies, because the ECHR said a measure was taken by a “public” employer – the case involved a worker for SNCF, France’s national state-owned railway company – as regards one of its employees may constitute an interference by a public body in the worker’s “right to respect for private and family life”. The case was therefore analysed from the angle of a public authorities’ obligations, which are different to those of a private sector company. However, ultimately the difference is limited.
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