The European court of human rights recently dismissed an employee’s case that his rights were violated after his company intercepted his communications.
This legal battle involved a Romanian engineer who was fired in 2007 after his company discovered he was using Yahoo Messenger to chat to his fiancee and brother.
The ruling means that companies can monitor workers’ online communications, and take action against employees if they violate any work policies.
This raises the question as to whether South Africans can use their company resources for personal matters, and whether their online activity is monitored.
MyBroadband asked South Africa’s largest telecommunications companies to shed light on their policies – here is what they said.
Telkom: employees can use the network for limited personal use
Telkom spokesperson Jacqui ‘O Sullivan said Telkom’s Electronic Communication Policy permits use of company infrastructure for limited personal use under a defined set of conditions.
“Generally, as long as no offensive or criminal behaviour is undertaken and personal activities do not interfere with availability of normal business services, such activities are permissible,” she said.
She said all staff are required to confirm their awareness of these policies.
“An internal Media/Social Media Policy further sets out how staff may represent Telkom in public forums.”
Telkom does not monitor user activities for personal usage. However, all personnel must be aware that in the case of a formal investigation, monitoring may take place on all business platforms.
Vodacom: employees may use company resources for personal purposes
Maya Makanjee, Vodacom’s Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs, said they allowed employees to use company resources – like their computer and Internet connection – for personal communications.
She said Vodacom does not actively monitor employees’ daily communications at work.
However, Vodacom’s monitoring policy enables them to monitor employees’ communications for the purposes of an investigation, or for detecting unauthorised use of company resources.
Cell C – we understand that our employees use company resources for some personal use
Cell C said that as a progressive communications company, it understands its employees will and do use company resources for some personal use.
“Obviously we trust that employees keep that within reason and that it doesn’t affect their work, and that is governed by an internal policy which regulates the manner in which employees are entitled to use Cell C’s network facilities, Internet, and e-mail,” said Cell C.
Cell C said it will not actively monitor its staff’s communications unless it is given a good reason to do so.
MTN – employees may use computers and the Internet for personal communication
MTN SA’s Chief Human Resources Officer Themba Nyathi said their communication policy allows employees to use computers and the Internet for personal communication – as long as it is within the bounds of reason, is not excessive, and does not violate ethical practices.
“Employees who violate the company’s communication policies are subject to internal disciplinary processes,” said Nyathi.
Nyathi said employees who “violate the company’s policies can be identified”.
Internet Solutions – employees may use Internet access and devices
Internet Solutions said its employees are allowed to benefit from the company’s bandwidth, Internet access, and end-user devices provided.
However, they have to comply with the group’s Acceptable Usage Policy – which is shaped around its corporate values.
The company also has monitoring capabilities.