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

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

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