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Minister of Labor Wants to Regulate Private Internet Use in the Workplace

[Berlin, GERMANY] The Federal Minister of Labor wants to regulate private Internet use in the workplace. The new guideline would allow independent agreements or wage agreements to restrict private surfing at work. The business magazine "Handelsblatt" reported today that company interests must not be affected by this in any way. The paper quotes the department head of the Ministry as saying that, according to the outline of a new employee data protection act, employees could be charged for the costs of e-mail and World Wide Web use.

However, the law would forbid companies to monitor private e-mails or record which Internet sites the personnel uses. In the case of a breach of this law, employees could bring up charges against a company for violation of the secrecy of the post and telecommunications. Exceptions to the data protection act would only be possible in the case of serious suspicion of misuse.

In connection with this, the German Union of Commercial, Clerical and Technical Employees (Deutsche Angestellten-Gewerkschaft or DAG) confirmed its demand today for a special law in this legislative period for the protection of employee information. It also voiced its explicit support of the preliminary work of the Federal Ministry of Labor. "The growing, largely uncontrolled informationalization of the work world calls for a specific employee data protection act which gives the protection of the personal rights of employees a firm legal basis, which promotes the transparency of the processing of employee data, and which ensures the acceptance of the technology," said Ursula Konitzer, the acting DAG chairperson, on Monday in Berlin.

Monitoring of private use through the employer must be strictly forbidden. Employee data and personal data should be able to be ascertained and processed in the work process only for clearly established and legal purposes for carrying out permissible legal transactions. An analysis and integration of the data, which could lead to the construction of a thorough employee personality profile, would not be permissible. Additionally, devices for quantitative or qualitative control could not be implemented without the knowledge of the employee. "A modern, knowledge-based information society calls for legally assured online rights for online employees," claimed the DAG vice-president in a statement put out by de.internet.com.

In the past few months there have been repeated discussions about the private use of official Internet connections. The Minister of Finance sees free surfing as a cash value advantage that should be taxed. After protests from the industry sector, which rejected the effort involved in complex recording and clearing procedures, the tax did not come into effect.