Purpose of monitoring
Employers are, in principle, allowed to design and apply a video monitoring policy, if it serves a legitimate aim. Such legitimate aims could be, for example, the protection of children at a kindergarten or school or the protection of an employer’s property against potential thefts. Video cameras, however, should not be located in employees’ offices or places of a very private nature, for example, in bathrooms. Their location should be limited to entrances, exits, hallways and other similar places.
Remember that your employer is obliged to inform you about the monitoring policy and that you are also entitled to access personal data about you that has been collected during the monitoring process. In exceptional cases, however, the disclosure of such information and your consent may not be mandatory, as your knowledge about being monitored may complicate the achievement of a legitimate aim.
example If an employer suspects that somebody is disclosing data of a confidential nature, such as commercial secrets to another company or stealing a company’s inventory, the covert monitoring of suspected employees for a limited time may be the most appropriate means for achieving this aim.
What human rights violation may there be?
Video surveillance of you as an employee at your workplace intrudes into your privacy. Your conduct is being recorded during this process, and the documentation of it may be retained and used for different purposes. However, only unlawful interference with your right to control the use of your data will result in a violation of your human right to private life.
Has the video monitoring been conducted lawfully?
To evaluate whether the video monitoring has been conducted lawfully and whether your privacy has been sufficiently respected, see the questions below. If, in your situation, your answer to one of these questions is negative, your privacy may have been violated. In such a case, you have the right to complain. Read more about how to complain.
Video monitoring should have a legal basis. Namely, it can only be carried out in situations stipulated by the General Data Protection Regulation and the Labour Law. For example, where an employer has developed internal regulations in accordance with the Labour Law, that a certain area of a company’s building is being monitored using video cameras.
If the video surveillance does not correspond to the situations allowed by law, the action taken is not legal and your right to private life may be violated. There is no need then to examine the other questions.
Video surveillance at the workplace has to be aimed at the protection of other legitimate interests. Such legitimate interests can, for example, be:
- an employer’s interest in ensuring the safe and productive fulfillment of his/her employees’ job responsibilities
- an employer’s right to protect his/her property against the excessive use of facilities for employees’ personal purposes or even thefts
- the protection of employees’ health
- the protection of children
Video monitoring at the workplace should be necessary and suitable for the achievement of a legitimate aim. The information gathered has to be important and relevant to achieve the aim of the monitoring. Additionally, no other alternative and less restrictive methods should be available to achieve the legitimate aim.
To find out whether the video surveillance was necessary, you can ask the following questions:
a) Has the scope of monitoring been too extensive? Namely, has additional data, not necessary for the protection of other legitimate interests been gathered?
An employer shall only collect and process data that directly relates to the issues which the employer aims to clarify. The data should not be of an extensive scope.
b) Has the gathered data been further processed for purposes that were not initially determined?
If your data has been processed for different purposes than initially determined, your consent should have been sought.
c) Has the data been kept longer than necessary?
The recordings should only be retained for a very limited time, unless they are used for a specific legitimate aim, such as the investigation of an incident. They should be deleted after the determined period of time has passed and/or the recordings are no longer necessary for the initial purpose.
A fair balance between two competing interests – your right to private life and the legitimate interests of the state or other persons – must be found. There have to be sufficient arguments why the interests of others outweighed your rights and the other way around in the particular case.
The courts would ask the following questions within the balancing process:
a) For how long was the monitoring carried out? Was it carried out systematically?
If the monitoring was carried out systematically, for a relatively long time, your right to private life has been limited to a greater extent. The monitoring should be stopped immediately if it is no longer necessary for the achievement of the legitimate aim.
b) Who has access to the video recordings? Were the recordings disclosed to other persons?
Your recorded data should be made accessible only to those people at the workplace whose job responsibility is related to video monitoring and/or employees’ data processing. This data should not be used against you, for example, in disciplinary or other proceedings.
Articles 55, 56
Articles 96, 116
Applicable as of 25 May 2018
Articles 6, 9 and 10
25 June 1997
3 April 2007
5 October 2010
28 January 2003
Joint publication by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights and the Council of Europe