The German Federal Labor Court has ruled that the use of a software that records keyboard inputs and produces screenshots for the purposes of surveillance (keylogger) by an employer could not be considered lawful under sect. 32(1) of the Federal Data Protection Act if there is no concrete suspicion that the employee has committed a criminal act or is responsible for a severe breach of duty. The information about an employee’s private activities on an official computer collected via keylogger thus may not be used in court proceedings. The court stated that such use by the defendant breached the plaintiff’s constitutional right to privacy.

By way of background, the plaintiff had worked for the defendant as a web developer since 2011. In 2015, the defendant told her employees that she was logging all internet traffic and use of IT systems. After the defendant found out that the plaintiff had used his official computer for private purposes to a considerable extent, even though the plaintiff had claimed only minor private use, the plaintiff terminated the employment without notice.