Camera Surveillance in the Workplace

Camera surveillance in the workplace may help prevent theft or damage to properties. Likewise, an employer may use cameras to protect personnel and potential customers. However, employers must meet a number of conditions before they are allowed to install cameras. The reason is that cameras greatly invade employees’ privacy. Hidden cameras are only allowed in very exceptional cases.

When can my employer install cameras in the workplace?

Your employer can only install cameras if he or she has a so-called legitimate interest that requires camera surveillance.

Legitimate Interest
A legitimate interest of your employer may be the protection of properties. Protecting you and customers may also be an interest that justifies camera surveillance. Your employer is not allowed to use cameras for the purpose of evaluating you as an employee. This would be too great an invasion of your privacy.

Need for Camera Surveillance
The camera surveillance must be necessary, meaning that your employer cannot achieve the goal (e.g. combating fraud) otherwise. Your employer should first verify whether there is a means other than camera surveillance that is less invasive of your privacy. Also, camera surveillance should not be used by itself, but rather be part of a total package of measures.

Privacy Review

Does your employer have a legitimate interest and is camera surveillance necessary? Before he or she can start with camera surveillance, your employer must first conduct a privacy review. This means that your employer should weigh your interests and rights against his or her own interests.

Obligation to Notify Camera Surveillance
Your employer should make sure that you and any customers know that there is a camera, e.g. by putting up signs. If your employer fails to do so, he or she may be punishable.

Footage Cannot Be Used for Other Purposes
If your employer is using surveillance cameras to protect employees and/or possessions, he or she is not allowed to use the footage from these cameras to analyze or assess your performance. Your employer may, in principle, only use the footage for the purpose for which it was recorded.

Can my employer use hidden cameras?

No, this is not normally allowed. However, in the event of widespread theft or fraud within your organization, your employer may, under certain circumstances, use a hidden camera (secret camera surveillance).

Conditions for Hidden Camera Use
Your employer may only use a hidden camera if he or she has met the following conditions:

  • In spite of various efforts, your employer has not managed to put an end to the theft or fraud.
  • Use of the hidden camera is temporary. (Permanent hidden-camera surveillance is never allowed!).
  • The invasion of the employees’ privacy is kept to a minimum. Camera surveillance in restrooms, for example, crosses the line.
  • Afterwards, your employer should inform the employees concerned of the use of the hidden camera.

No Recording for Training Purposes
Your employer may not secretly record you for training purposes. Mystery shopping with a hidden camera, for example, is not allowed. Your employer may only use a hidden camera to investigate e.g. theft or fraud, and even then only as a last resort. For other purposes, such as training purposes, a hidden camera is too heavy a tool.

Even if your employer previously asks you for permission to secretly record you, a secret camera is not allowed. As an employee, you will probably feel pressured by your employer to consent, even though you really do not want to be recorded. Your consent is then not voluntary and, therefore, is invalid.

Secret Surveillance of Personnel
Use of a hidden camera falls under the category of personnel surveillance and is allowed under certain conditions. You can read more about this in the section on Personnel Surveillance.