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The report by European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO) called for "clear regulation at European level" and European-wide research to compare the differences in existing European and national laws on workplace computer privacy.
The report has added weight to criticism of the UK's approach to e-mail monitoring, which some employers' groups have branded unhelpful and confusing.
The Confederation of British Industry said the recent publication of a new code by the information commissioner on e-mail and internet monitoring at work, although intended to clarify the situation, had not sufficiently addressed businesses' concerns.
The EIRO report praised Belgium, Denmark and Germany for having legislation or legally binding nationwide collective agreements that specifically deal with internet monitoring.
On countries, such as the UK, which have a less formalised approach, the report said, "The rules and regulations governing privacy in the workplace are based on a confusing web of guidelines and individual agreements at company level, often compromising either individual workers' or the employers' rights."
Full report www.eiro.eurofound.eu.int/2003/07/study/TN0307101S.html