Another dose of Data Privacy!

Posted on: January 26th, 2018

Just before Christmas, we reported on two recent cases on data protection for employers to be aware of. Well, the data protection gods have delivered us another case tackling the use of covert surveillance cameras and the right to privacy at work…

In the case of Lopez Ribilda & others v Spain, a Spanish supermarket chain installed visible and covert surveillance cameras in their stores, having noticed stock level and sales inconsistencies. Employees were made aware of the visible cameras, which were focused on customers, but were not informed of the covert cameras, which were aimed at members of staff.

As a result of this surveillance, five cashiers were dismissed for theft and facilitating other thefts by colleagues and customers. The cashiers alleged a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which protects the right to respect for private and family life, as well as a breach of their data protection rights.

The Spanish court considered that the covert surveillance was justified and proportionate, as the supermarket had reasonable suspicions of theft, and rejected the employees’ claims. The cashiers did not stop there though and took their case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The ECHR disagreed with the Spanish court – it considered that Article 8 had been engaged and violated by the supermarket chain. In addition, Spanish data privacy laws had also been breached, as the employer had not advised the employees of the personal data that would be processed nor the purpose behind the processing.

So what does this mean for employers?

With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) a mere four months away, it is important to remember that the first principle of data protection is that personal data is processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner.

For employers who are considering installing video or other surveillance in the workplace, this case is a useful reminder to consider why the surveillance is being introduced, whether it is fair on the employees being monitored, and whether you are being open and transparent with the individuals. If in doubt, seek legal advice before doing so to avoid breaching both data protection laws and human rights.

Now I’ve mentioned GDPR: are you GDPR ready? If not, find further details and our handy guide here.

Charlotte Allery is a Solicitor in our Commercial and Employment Services team and a member of Coffin Mew’s Tech Sector team.