López Ribalda and Others v. Spain – covert surveillance in the workplace: attenuating the protection of privacy for employees

Fotis Bregiannis is a doctoral researcher in the field of European Labour Law at UCLouvain. He works at the social law department of the Centre for the Interdisciplinary Research in Law, Enterprise and Society (CRIDES) and is currently writing a doctoral dissertation on EU legal instruments imposing information-related obligations on MNEs (EWC Directive, 2014/95 Directive).

Argyro Chatzinikolaou is a doctoral researcher and a member of the Law & Technology research group and the Human Rights Centre at Ghent University. She is currently working on the research project “Minors and online sexual acts: a study of legal qualifications and regulatory approaches from a children’s rights perspective”.

In López Ribalda and Others v. Spain, a recent judgment delivered by the Grand Chamber, the European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter ECtHR or Court) held, by 14 votes to three, that Spanish supermarket employees who were covertly filmed by security cameras in their workplace, following suspicions of theft, had suffered no violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (hereinafter ECHR). The Grand Chamber ruled against the Chamber judgment of 9 January 2018 which had found a violation of the employees’ right to respect for private life accordingly. In fact, the Grand Chamber seems more eager to accept restrictions to the protection of workplace privacy, contrary to the more promising Grand Chamber judgment in Bărbulescu v. Romania (in which two years ago the Court had found a violation of Article 8 in the case of the monitoring of an employee’s electronic communications). Continue reading

Stuck in the middle with Papageorgiou: Missed or new opportunities?

Effie Fokas is a political scientist and a Senior Research Fellow at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, Research Associate of the London School of Economics Hellenic Observatory, and member of the Henry Luce/Leadership 100 project on Orthodoxy and Human Rights (Orthodox Christian Studies Center, Fordham University). She was also Principal Investigator of the ERC-funded Grassrootsmobilise Research Programme, which was one of three interveners in the Papageorgiou case.

Introduction

On 31 October 2019, the European Court of Human Rights delivered its judgement on the case of Papageorgiou and Others v. Greece, thus adding to its rich case law to do with religious education. Papageorgiou concerns the claim of Greek parents and students that the Greek mandatory religious education and its exemption process violate their Art.2, Protocol 1 right to education in accordance with their own religious or philosophical convictions. The exemption right was limited only to students who are not Orthodox and who submit a formal ‘solemn declaration’ to this effect to their school. On this basis both families in the case also claim violation of their Article 8 right to respect for private life, their Article 9 right to freedom of religion, and the Article 14 prohibition of discrimination.

Continue reading

Suspicionless Stop and Search Powers at the Border and Article 8: Beghal v United Kingdom

By John Ip, University of Auckland Faculty of Law

On 28 February 2019, the First Section Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) delivered its decision in Beghal v United Kingdom, a de facto appeal from a 2015 UK Supreme Court decision concerning the question of whether Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000 was incompatible with various rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. The ECtHR concluded unanimously that the applicant’s right to respect for private and family life under Article 8 had been infringed. Continue reading

Another case of violating privacy and personal data protection: Catt v. the United Kingdom

This blogpost was written by Judith Vermeulen, PhD researcher in the Law and Technology Research Group at Ghent University.

Shortly after Big Brother Watch (see also the blogpost for this case), the European Court of Human Rights again had the opportunity to pronounce itself on the compatibility of Article 8 ECHR with the collection, retention and further use of personal data for public interest purposes by UK authorities. Catt, however, does not involve an assessment of the data processing regime as such. Rather, it evaluates the specific situation the applicant is in. While the question of adequacy of the legal and regulatory framework surrounding the impugned measures remains unanswered, the processing of the applicant’s data in particular is considered to not pass the necessity test. Noteworthy in any case is that the Court – in contrast to what the EU Court of Justice has decided in the past – reiterates that the indiscriminate collection of personal data is justifiable. With Brexit looming – and the CJEU accordingly soon losing its jurisdiction vis-à-vis Britain –, this development in the Strasbourg case-law is of particular importance. Finally, it is questionable whether Article 8 is in fact the best legal ground for assessing the facts of this case. The discussions these provoked at national may illustrate this point. Continue reading

S.V. v. Italy: on temporality and transgender persons

By Pieter Cannoot, PhD Researcher at the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University

On 11 October 2018, the European Court of Human Rights found a violation of Article 8 ECHR in a case involving a transsexual woman called S.V. The application concerned the Italian authorities’ refusal to authorise S.V. officially changing her first name on the grounds that no judicial ruling had confirmed the successful completion of sex reassignment therapy, even though she had been socially and physically transitioning for several years. According to the Court, this waiting period had resulted in feelings of vulnerability, humiliation and anxiety, which amounted to a disproportionate interference with S.V.’s right to respect for private life. Continue reading

Big brother may continue watching you

By Judith Vermeulen (PhD Candidate, Law & Technology Research Group, Ghent University)

On 13 September 2018, more than five years after Edward Snowden revealed the existence of electronic (mass) surveillance programmes run by the intelligence services of the United States of America and the United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights (‘ECtHR’) found two UK data collection regimes – one of which will not be discussed here[1] – to violate Article 8 of the ECHR.[2] A third one, being part of the information sharing arrangements between these so-called “Five Eyes” countries was, on the contrary, considered to involve a justified interference with the right to respect for private life

While the long-awaited Big Brother Watch and Others v. UK judgment, which joined three actions, signifies another victory for civil liberties and privacy advocating non-profit organisations and activists – no less than 16 being the applicants in this case – some serious matters of concern remain. Continue reading

“Bulk interception of communications in Sweden meets Convention standards”: the latest addition to mass surveillance case law by the European Court of Human Rights

By Plixavra Vogiatzoglou, Legal Researcher, KU Leuven Centre for IT and IP Law (CiTiP)

On 19th June 2018, the Third Section of the Court, in its judgment in the case Centrum för Rättvisa v. Sweden, ruled that the bulk interception of communications scheme of the Foreign Intelligence of Sweden meets the Convention standards. This ruling follows verbatim the line of argumentation from previous case law on secret mass surveillance, thus reaffirming once more a high threshold for the protection of the right to private and family life. Continue reading