Big Brother In the Workplace
The European Court of Human Rights (EctHR) has held that, in certain circumstances, covert surveillance in the workplace breaches an individuals right to privacy.
A recent case involved a supermarket that had installed surveillance cameras following a suspicion of theft. Workers had not been informed of the covertly placed cameras. As a result of the filming, and relying upon the covert images, several employees were dismissed. Whilst they had admitted to being involved in the crime, they alleged that there had been a breach of their data protection rights.
The EctHR did not accept that the covert filming had been justified, appropriate, necessary and proportionate and held that staff members data protection rights had been infringed. It found that video surveillance in the workplace is a considerable intrusion into private life and it did not feel that the supermarket had struck a fair balance between an employee’s right to privacy and its interests in protecting its business.
To comply with UK data protection laws, employees must be “explicitly, precisely and unambiguously” informed of the existence of a personal data file, how their data will be held and processed. More duties and criteria for consent will be introduced upon the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) on 25 May 2018.
Employers should inform employees of any form of surveillance and proceed with caution if they wish to install any covert surveillance. Now is the time for companies to consider revising privacy policies and undertake data protection audits to ensure that they will be GDPR compliant.