Porn on computer: Court finds against French worker over privacy

Computer at a cybersecurity forum in the French city of Lille, 23 January 2018 Image copyright AFP

French rail worker Eric Libert claimed his right to a private life was breached when his employer opened files with pornography on his work computer.

Now the European Court of Human Rights has ruled against him, agreeing that the files should have been clearly identified as private.

Mr Libert was fired by the national rail company, SNCF, in 2008 when the files were unearthed.

The Strasbourg court found SNCF had a right to open them.

Mr Libert, deputy head of the regional surveillance unit in Amiens, was suspended in 2007 and his computer searched in his absence.

SNCF found pornographic images, videos and forged certificates on his computer.

Mr Libert appealed to an industrial tribunal after his sacking, lost, and took his case all the way up to the French court of appeal.

In its ruling, The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decided there had been no breach of Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights - the right to respect for privacy and a family life.

Its ruling noted that French law does provide for some privacy when it comes to files marked as personal on a work computer. However, they can be opened in the presence of the employee, or if he or she is told in advance.

'Serious breach'

In the case of Mr Libert, the ECHR agreed with French rulings that the files had not been properly identified as being private, though they had been flagged personal.

It also noted the findings of French courts that SNCF had been legitimately ensuring that its computers were being used "in line with contractual obligations and the applicable regulations".

The ECHR noted that France's court of appeal had ruled that Mr Libert committed "a serious breach of the SNCF professional code of ethics and of the relevant internal guidelines".

"According to the court of appeal, his actions had been particularly serious because, as an official responsible for general surveillance, he would have been expected to set an example."

More on this story