"It has to not be excessive, you can't monitor everything. If as a company policy you read all communications, that would not be compliant with data protection. But if you do spot checks of professional communications that is perfectly alright."
A certain amount of personal communication, even from work devices, is covered under Article 8. "Even if the employee has a company-sponsored smartphone with WhatsApp, and WhatsApp is just for personal use and the employer monitored it, that is a violation of data protection laws and probably of the Convention," Timner says. The same goes for any boss using IT at their disposal to monitor completely private communications. "But if you have a tool that is just for professional purposes and monitor it as an employer not excessively, this is absolutely legal."
That was part of what let the case down. The applicant had told the company that his use of the messenger service was entirely professional.
So snooping bosses and email voyeurs shouldn't get too excited by the good, old-fashioned tabloid sensationalism: the law is not on their side. The courts will continue to judge anything of this nature on a case-by-case basis - and a single ruling relating to a labour dispute in 2007 will not change that.
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