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Privacy at Work: Surveillance cameras Article 2

Last month we looked at data protection laws in the context of staff rights to privacy and a company’s ability to use surveillance cameras and referenced a case from a Montenegro University. Another recent case has touched upon some similar issues and considers the issues surrounding covert cameras in a workplace.

This Spanish case was in the European Court of Human Rights: Lopez Ribalda & Ors v Spain.

Cameras for resolving suspected theft

In this case, a supermarket had installed surveillance cameras to address suspected theft. Workers were told about the visible cameras; they were not told that there were other covert, hidden cameras.

Several employees were caught stealing and were dismissed relying on images captured on the covert cameras.

The employees in question then alleged that there had been a breach of Article 8 of their data protection rights.

Uber announced an appeal and applied for permission to 'leapfrog' the Court of Appeal and go straight to the Supreme Court, something which is only granted in a tiny minority of extremely important cases.

The employer’s rights

A Spanish court held that the measure was justified, appropriate, necessary and proportionate. They concluded that there was no other means of protecting the employer's rights which would have been equally as effective in identifying the thieves, which would have interfered less.

The European Court of Human Rights disagreed: Article 8 had been violated.

Paul Burton, Head of Frettens' Employment Team, examines the ruling “Video surveillance in the workplace is a considerable intrusion into private life; it extends to personal appearance. In this case, the Court concluded that a fair balance between the parties' rights had not been struck.”

How must employers comply?

To comply with data protection laws, employees must be ‘explicitly, precisely and unambiguously’ informed of the existence of a personal data file, how data will be processed, the purpose for collection and the recipients of the data.

Why is this different from the other case?

The case is distinguished from the Montenegro University case, where no breach of Article 8 was found. This is because, in that case, the data was for a specific purpose, was confined, controlled and time-limited.

At Frettens, all of our solicitors offer a free initial meeting or chat on the phone to answer your questions. If this article raises issues for you or your business, please call us on 01202 499255 and the Employment team will be happy to discuss it with you.