Employers can read their employees' private messages where those messages are sent over the internet during office hours, judges at the European Court of Human Rights have ruled.
Judges ruled that a company which had read an employee's messages sent via Yahoo Messenger while he was at work was within its rights to do so.
In the case, an engineer in Romania had asked the court to rule his employer had breached his right to confidential correspondence in 2007 when it sacked him having discovered he used the app to chat to his fiancee and brother, as well as professional contacts.
The judges said the man's employer had the right to check if he was completing his work.
They said it was not "unreasonable that an employer would want to verify that employees were completing their professional tasks during working hours".
The company's policy also prohibited use of the messaging app for personal conversations.
The judges said:
In passing down the ruling, the judges also said that unregulated snooping on employees would not be acceptable, and called on a set of polices to be drawn up by employers that would clearly state what information they could collect and how.