Can Your Boss Spy On Your Internet Use?

As laws finally catch up to technology, much of our online activities are not nearly as private as we think.

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Are we really in an age that has brought about "the end of privacy"? That comes from a recent article in Science magazine. We've covered the issues of privacy and free speech from a host of angles, but taking a step back, the amount of access into our private-particularly private digital-lives has never been greater. Recently, the European Court on Human Rights ruled that an employer had the right to search an employee's Yahoo Messenger account, since it was being used during company time. The employee ended up being fired and the Court ruled that his managers were totally justified in doing so.

As discussed in detail here, it's legal and common in both the Europe and the U.S. A 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision specifically addressed this issue for government employees, saying that their online communications and activities were subject to inspection. Private companies have a great deal of power too. Often deep embedded in User Agreement contracts, companies like Facebook and Google will stipulate that private information of yours will be used for any number of purposes, including advertisements. It's a complex issue that is evolving year-by-year as technology advances. In the meantime, it's worth it to check those privacy settings and read up as much as you can.

Read More:
How to see everything Google knows about you (Tech Insider)
"Even if you consider yourself a privacy buff, it's worth taking a look at your settings from time to time to make sure you're comfortable with what you are sharing."

Private messages at work can be read by European employers (BBC)
"The judges said: 'The employer acted within its disciplinary powers since, as the domestic courts found, it had accessed the Yahoo Messenger account on the assumption that the information in question had been related to professional activities and that such access had therefore been legitimate...'"