Right to private calls `not enough'

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The Independent Online
CIVIL RIGHTS campaigners warned yesterday that moves to give people the right to make private telephone calls at work did not go far enough in protecting workers from increasing workplace surveillance.

The campaign group Liberty called for statutory regulation of all forms of surveillance, including call monitoring. The appeal follows new guidelines issued by Oftel, the telephone industry regulator, which say that companies that routinely record phone conversations between staff and customers must provide unmonitored lines for staff to make and receive personal calls.

Liberty's director, John Wadham, said: "Oftel's guidelines are to be welcomed. However, we also need proper statutory regulation - and not only for call monitoring. Surveillance at work has increased drastically in recent years, with employees subjected to a range of invasive practices, including keystroke monitoring, video surveillance, interception of e- mails, and random drug testing. Clear and strict limits should be placed on what employers are legally entitled to do."

The Oftel guidelines have been issued to ensure that companies comply with the European Convention on Human Rights, which gives employees the right to privacy.

The Home Office said it was already consulting on the need to tighten the regulations over the interception of communications. A recent consultation paper said: "The law needs to recognise that there are perfectly respectable reasons for allowing employers to record telephone conversations in the workplace. But the practice needs to be regulated by law in a way which ensures that the rights of employees are respected in circumstances where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy."