Private internet use at the workplace to be permitted

In a balancing act, the Ministry of Labor wants to prevent content control, but at the same time demands monitoring with the planned regulation

The Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs wants to legally regulate the use of the Internet at the workplace. From the paper on a new "Employee Data Protection Act", which is available to the Handelsblatt and the contents of which are characterized by its author, head of department Hans Peter Vietheu, as initial preliminary considerations, it emerges that employees should in principle be granted the right to surf the Internet or write e-mails privately at the workplace if this does not interfere with any business matters. By "individual agreement or collective agreement" this right can then be restricted even further, for example "to a certain cost limit, to urgent and emergency cases or to the time after work". According to the draft, the employer can charge the employee for the costs incurred by private use.

The law, which is to be passed before the end of the year, also stipulates that employers are not allowed to read the content of private emails or monitor which websites are accessed by employees. content monitoring could be prosecuted as a violation of postal and telecommunications secrecy, unless there is a "serious suspicion of improper use" . However, with regard to business use, employers are generally allowed to determine the "the appropriateness of the scope and relevance of the accessed pages, writes the" the Handelsblatt writes. In addition, the employer may demand that business emails stored on the server be presented to him in printed form. However, if the monitoring concerns the performance or behavior of individual employees, the principle of proportionality must be observed. Surfing behavior may only be evaluated in general. According to the draft, employers are also allowed to block certain web content by means of filters, and employees are also obliged to use their personal data in a company-friendly manner "company-friendly" with the Internet even for private use.

All this still sounds rather half-baked. Naturally, employers are resisting such regulation of Internet use for private purposes because, according to Thomas Prinz of the BDA, this represents an encroachment on the company’s freedom to organize its business. However, it had to be decided which data a company could access. Email use could only be controlled if private emails could also be accessed.

This also seems to be the main problem of the draft, which combines the right to private Internet use with the possibility of control, because how else should private use be accounted for?? But then it must also be listed to whom the employee sends emails and possibly which pages he has visited. How is it ensured that the employee cannot view the contents of the private emails?? Are technical measures required on the part of the employer or are employees allowed to encrypt their emails and surf anonymously if this is done privately?? How do you regulate in detail what is business and what is private when surfing the Internet?? And why, in the case of private use for which the employee is responsible and which takes place during free time, should the employee still only be allowed to have filtered Internet access??