Potential Data Protection Issues for Irish Business Owners Using CCTV Systems

A subject that is being raised consistently during the course of our CCTV work is that of data protection and boundaries around privacy. It is a complex subject and one in which employers must be guided by the recommendations set out by the data protection commissioner. A nightmare scenario for any business owner is that, despite installing their CCTV monitoring with the best of intentions, that they find themselves on the receiving end of an opportunistic claim from a disgruntled member of staff who alleges that their privacy has been breached.

Most of the direction that we can usefully implement to protect ourselves and our employees comes from the Data Protection Acts of 1988 and 2003. As you would expect, the documentation relating to each act is exhaustive but we feel that the following headline points provide solid guidelines for business owners using CCTV and looking to follow best protective practices:

  1. All uses of CCTV must be proportionate and for a specific purpose. We must be able to demonstrate that there must be a genuine reason for installing and operating our CCTV system.
  2. The data has to be retained only for a defined and lawful reason.
  3. If an employee submits a written request they are entitled to a copy of recorded data which in which they are present. A business owner must ensure that they have the facilities in place to produce this data in a secure and efficient manner.
  4. The data retained must be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the reason it is required.
  5. The data must be stored securely at all times.
  6. The data must not be used or disclosed in any manner incompatible with our justification for using the CCTV system.
  7. The data cannot be retained or archived for longer than is absolutely necessary for the business owners purposes.

Different types of businesses and institutions are going to have varying security requirements requiring varying legitimate levels of surveillance. Some easily identifiable examples would include the following:

– CCTV may be used legitimately for security related purposes at the perimeter of a school.  Any use beyond this would need to be fully justifiable and strongly evidence-based for that particular set of circumstances.

– Hotels want to create a secure, controlled environment for their guests while at the same time complying with the data protection act and protecting the rights of their employees. Transparency and clear communication around the extent of surveillance here is vital.

– For taxi drivers, there are a number of data protection implications regarding the installation of CCTV in taxis. Footage recorded in this instance would be considered to be personal data under the data protection acts.

What is crucial for the business owner in each instance is that the level of surveillance employed is proportionate to the genuine needs and requirements that are present. If, as a business or institution, we get this wrong then it can be very problematic with serious consequences.

Context and proportionality are vitally important when it comes to usage of CCTV in the workplace. If CCTV is being used for a particular purpose then it is incumbent on the business to display clear signage informing staff where cameras are located and for what purposes the monitoring is being carried out. All commercial usages of CCTV must comply with the data protection guidelines which insist that there must be a clear justifiable reason in place for monitoring and collecting video footage. Employers must be aware that employees have privacy rights at work and that the extent of the monitoring must be proportionate with the legitimate needs of the business.

For example, in 2014 the Employment appeals tribunal awarded a former Dunnes Stores worker over €9,300 when it ruled that she had been unfairly sacked after being seen on CCTV footage taking and eating food from the deli counter and not paying for it. The  crucial factor in this instance was that there was no signage in place making the company workers aware that this particular area of the store was being monitored by a CCTV system.

This type of incident highlights the need for transparency and clear lines of communication at all times from both business owners and building managers to their staff.

For further infornation please see www.dataprotection.ie

For all CCTV system related enquiries please call us today on 01 8338040




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